What makes a day a good day to you?
Silke Pan: A successful day for me is when I was able to do the work I set out to do with confidence and in a cheerful mood. And what makes my day all the more beautiful is when I see my husband laughing, our dog radiating joie de vivre and I see that there are many happy people despite difficult circumstances.
Which auxiliary means or daily living aids are indispensable for you?
Silke Pan: I have been using the wheelchair for more than 13 years now – and all that such paraplegia entails. In addition to the wheelchair, I need an adapted car, a stair lift to get into my apartment, and daily care products such as the bladder catheters and so on.
What would you like to see from society and your fellow people in dealing with people with disabilities?
Silke Pan: I wish for compassion, unbiasedness and empathy.
I have noticed that many people do not know how to behave towards a person with disabilities. I always appreciate it when someone offers me their help, even if I don't necessarily need it right now. The gesture is the most important thing and if someone doesn't know how to tackle to be able to help, then this person should be allowed to express it openly without getting any criticism or attack from the disabled person (which unfortunately sometimes happens).
What has been your biggest challenge so far that you have mastered – and what has helped you?
Silke Pan: My biggest challenge was never giving up after the accident and never losing heart.
I have expressed this attitude through my various sporting ventures: the major competitions with the handbike, as well as the collaboration to develop the TWIICE exoskeleton. Then my tours with a total of already over 80 mountain passes crossed with the handbike, as well as 30 lakes in my 1,000-kilometer ultra-paratriathlon. These were all sporting highlights that have made me grow inside. And since 2020, my return to artistry when, after 13 years of paraplegia, I discovered a technique that now allows me to balance on my hands again. With this, I built a new performance and got an engagement in the circus.
What has helped me in this? My belief that life has many beautiful surprises in store for each of us, as long as we are willing to look forward, constantly improve, and take on even demanding tasks.
My husband also contributed a lot to me doing all these things. He often made suggestions to me and thought I was capable of doing them. I didn't want to disappoint him and that strengthened my willpower.