Seeking people with similar experiences

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2014
Julie Kane
ANDY JACKSON/ Fairfax NZ
IN THE DARK: Julie Kane has short arms and they're starting to cause complications.

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Julie Kane would like to meet people with a similar disability to hers to compare notes, but she's not that interested in finding out what it's called or what caused it.

Born with short arms, Kane, 42, has never let her disability get in her way, but as she gets older she has started to wonder what the future will hold and what she should expect.

Her disability didn't have a name and she had never met anyone with a similar condition.

The closest the Taranaki woman had seen were thalidomide victims, so she decided she would try to find out how she could meet up with one or two of them.

Like thalidomide victims, Kane's mother was given a drug for morning sickness, she said.

"When I was first born it was sort of like hush, hush. The doctor said it had nothing to do with the medication he gave her or anything like that, but there is actually no other explanation for it. Whether whatever he gave her had the thalidomide in it or not, I don't know. And no-one would own up to it."

She doesn't know what medication her mother was given.

Forty-two years ago it was, "gosh, that happened," then people just got on with it, she said.

"I could dig it up, but it's not going to change it. No-one is going to give me a pill so my arms fall off and I grow new ones."

But as she gets older she is having problems with her back - she has to bend down lower than other people - and she now has bursitis in her right arm.

"A lot of people get it in their knees and elbows. I don't have an elbow, so I've got it in my shoulder."

She would like to know how many other people in New Zealand were in a similar situation to herself, she said.

"And see how their lives have come up, whether they are in fulltime jobs, whether they needed a carer when they got older."

Kane doesn't think of herself as having a disability.

"It's other people's images of me that make me have a disability."

She once went for a job interview and kept her hands in her pockets. But when she went back for a second interview and the employer saw her arms, he accused her of lying on her CV.

"He couldn't understand how a person with a disability could have done those things."

As an adult, out with her mother, she had had people come up and ask her mother "can she talk?" she said.

"A sense of humour helps."

Kane was brought up as a "normal" child and not being able to do something was not accepted as an excuse. She had been jet sprinting, car racing, and had travelled overseas.

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But occasionally, people telling her she wouldn't be able to do something comes in handy, she laughs.

"If I don't want to do it, I just agree."

- Taranaki Daily News

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