Helping Pearl Gannon

When I was 8 years old I was playing in the backyard with my sister without a care in the world. I tripped on a dip in the grass and landed wrong on my ankle. Instead of getting up and walking it off, as I’d done countless times before, I writhed on the ground in excruciating pain. This seemingly innocent accident drew a hard line between my life before this event, and what my life would be after. 

I saw numerous doctors for the next few years of my life, all of whom misdiagnosed me time and time again. For years I was treated with prescription pills for disorders and syndromes I didn’t actually have, which were unknowingly wreaking havoc on my nervous system. The pain that had started in my foot would slowly spread to all four of my limbs, and doctors were unable to figure out why. 

I grew to be more and more dependent on my wheelchair after years of crutches. I witnessed my body rapidly regress for reasons I didn’t understand, all the while enduring chronic pain. In these dark hours of my life I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, something that I still manage today with the help of medication. Nevertheless I moved forward, tailoring my lifestyle and adapting accordingly. My freshman year of high school I found salvation in a wheelchair basketball team and believe to this day it is the reason I stayed sane in this period in my life. 

After high school I attended nursing school on scholarship, fulfilling my life-long dream to become a nurse. Halfway through my degree I was notified that I wouldn’t receive my license because being in a chair prohibited me from making a bed if it was positioned in the corner of a room. To say goodbye to something I’d worked so hard for over something so trivial was a crushing blow, but I decided to go back to school and for a degree in Psychology. By this point in my life I’d realized I could use my strengths in public speaking and advocacy to mentor people with disabilities, and I knew I’d found my true calling.

At the age of 26 I finally received an accurate diagnosis: I had CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth.) CMT is a neurological disease that affects the muscles as well as the nervous system, and degenerates over time. Finally having a name to put to the disorder that had remained nameless for 18 years was more difficult than I anticipated. I could see into my future, into what the disease could do to my body. 

Last year my friend convinced me to participate in Miss Wheelchair Illinois 2014, a contest which she had won the year before. It took a little persuasion, but I attended and instead of preparing a speech like the other contestants - I improvised on the spot! I spoke not only about my journey with my disability but also about challenging the stigma that if you have a disability you’re then “pigeon-holed” into having only that one thing. I have CMT and am diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Because of my platform and my message, I was crowned Miss Wheelchair Illinois 2014. For the past year I have been using the publicity to my advantage, traveling and giving speeches, and bringing awareness to living with a disability by getting my story into the media. 

Because of my hectic schedule during my reign as Miss Wheelchair Illinois I had to take time off from school, but I plan on completing my degree. I created this GoFundMe campaign to raise money for school and other necessary items that insurance won’t cover, such as a lift that I can use to travel up and down stairs in my home. 

Since I didn’t have it easy growing up with a disability, if I can make it easier on someone in the future, I hope to do so. This campaign will ​help bring me ​the independence I need to continue helping others. ​

I am now funding for a wheelchair lift to go outside my house to the door since there are eight steps in order to get to the actual door. When I am planning to leave the house I need to be very efficient in my trip out to the car so that I can make the least amount of trips out of the house. With the platform lift for my wheelchair I will be able to just go out in just one trip.


Thank you for reading my story and feel free to share.

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Organizer

Pearl Gannon 
Organizer
Chicago, IL
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