I was provided with a copy of Taking Steps by Helen Sims to review, which tells the tale of a strong woman who has struggled with the effects of suffering from Cerebral Palsy.
I must admit, although I’ve heard about the condition before, I have no knowledge about it whatsoever, and therefore it was enlightening to be told what it is like to live with it, and how Helen has coped with dealing with the disadvantages it brings.
Helen’s story is told within a few pages at the start of the book, but I wish it had been longer. It’s written in a way that reminds me of a blog (and I LOVE blogs), but I was so taken in with her story that I wanted to know more about Helen.
Even though it was shorter than I’d have liked, her story is still wonderfully written and still captures her emotions, such as the sadness she suffered throughout her childhood, but still sounding upbeat about her life.
Helen explained that she was born prematurely, and how her “tiny body struggled to hold onto life,” and all her parents could do is watch.
I connected with Helen and her parents, whose names I do not know, immediately. To watch your child go through something so terrible, and not knowing what the outcome would be, must be excruciatingly terrifying.
Helen explains that she was looked after by “a wonderful team of doctors and nurses,” who did everything they could for her. However, after contracting an infection for reasons she does not know, Helen had to have a blood transfusion.
She explained that after this, the heart monitor she had been linked up to showed no problems, however she wasn’t breathing and had effectively died.
The doctors managed to get her breathing again, however in those few minutes, her oxygen-starved brain was affected, and therefore her mobility.
Without wanting to tell you the whole story, Helen explains what it was like going to a ‘special school’ and later, a ‘mainstream’ school.
School is difficult for everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone will or has faced issues within their school lives, so to be a child with a disability must have been even more difficult.
What was nice to hear however, was that Helen was still included, even if she was just the ‘skipping rope holder’ at play time. But the longing she felt to be the girl skipping if heartbreaking, and Helen explains this is such a beautifully emotional way.
Helen goes on to talk of the surgery she has had to go through, which she had to undergo whilst still in school. I can’t even imagine what pain she must have been in, but it certainly struck a chord with me.
After Helen’s short story, you’ll find her poems and short stories. One of my favourite poems of hers is ‘Always There’.
It tells of the pain and agony she has been through, which I believe she means emotionally and physically, speaking of a body that “betrays” her.
She explains that when people look at her, all they see is her disability, but she is a person who laughs and loves, just like everybody else.
She also talks of the social asks we wear every day, in order to hide the pain within, and I’m pretty sure that everybody can relate to this.
Another favourite is Homeless, and is more of an observation of the way people treat those living on the street. She speaks of how people do their best to avoid their eyes when we pass them every day, walking by and staring at our feet.
Again in this poem, she speaks of how they are people too. She writes: “I am a person too, and remember that I, could easily be you.”
Her short stories are a little different, with lots of dialogue in some. I read them almost as if I’m reading the script of a play, so if Helen hasn’t thought about writing a play yet, I suggest she gives it a go!
My favourite of Helen’s short story is Daisy’s Story – A Cat’s Tale.
The story is written from the point of view of her cat Daisy, and she tells of how she bonded with Helen after being adopted by her family. It’s humorous in places, and talks of how she has helped Helen by comforting her, and lending her a helping paw!
Taking Steps is definitely worth a read. Even if you’re not into poetry or short stories, it’s worth your while grabbing a copy of the book, and learning about what life has been like for Helen. Get yourself a copy now by clicking here!