WEDNESDAY WOMAN: Mum of three inspires others
HER STORY IS ONE that has been told many times.
Kelly-Ann Wallace never hesitates to relate how, at nine months old, she was severely burnt in a house fire. And she’s not afraid to show her scars.
At 39, she is now seriously contemplating turning her inspiring story into a book, and is looking for willing partners to make it a reality.
One of her great loves was netball. And she played it well despite being one-handed. The burns over most of her body claimed her right hand, which had to be amputated just above the wrist.
The details of how the fire occurred are still sketchy, but Kelly-Ann said she was told that she was in the bedroom sleeping. A kerosene oil lamp was on the bed head and the curtain accidentally knocked it over.
She was hospitalised for almost five years before being placed in the Thelma Vaughan Memorial Home.
She later attended St George Primary School where she grabbed the opportunity to join the netball team.
“Seeing the children playing this game, I got interested. At first I was hesitant because I told myself, ‘how am I going to play with one hand? How can I catch a ball?’”
But she surprised many, including herself.
“Everybody was shocked. My first game was at Combermere School and while we were arriving at the school, I could hear the whispers, ‘She got one hand’, ‘she probably is the water girl’, but from the time I start to play, everybody was shocked,” she said.
Kelly-Ann estimates how fast the ball is approaching, how long it will take to get to her and the angle at which to grab it.
Her skills were further developed at Parkinson Memorial Secondary School where she played the positions of goal shoot and goal attack.
Now the wing attack for Notre Dame Ballers, she admits that she has slowed a bit from her days as “a real hot shooter” because of age and a shrinking arm.
“Playing netball helped me to be stronger . . . . I can do anything – wash, cook, peel potatoes, braid hair, instal weaves, climb trees, ride bicycles. I want people who are just like me, who have a physical disability, to be strong,” she said.
Kelly-Ann said she believed everyone was put on the planet for a reason and she chose to be a leader.
“A lot of people, when they pass me on the road they say, ‘Girl, you are so amazing, I love to see you’, and that inspires them to push and never give up.”
Along with her hopes of turning her story into a book, she also wants to work with the youth in the hope that her story will motivate them.
Kelly-Ann, who works as an inventory clerk at a restaurant, has three daughters – Brandi, 21, Brittany, 15, and seven-year-old Brianna – along with a grandson, Shakur, three, and a granddaughter, Shakyra, one.
It is Brandi who is encouraging herto write a book.
Brandi interjects: “She came from rock bottom. If people know some of the things we have been through together they would be surprised. I keep telling her to find someone she can tell her story to and they can write it for her.”
There was a tumultuous period during Kelly-Ann’s school years when she responded to the teasing by fighting. She went to live with a relative after leaving the children’s home, but was later put out. After Brandi was born, Kelly-Ann lived in a hut with no water and no bathroom. And if things couldn’t get any worse, she also had to battle cancer.
She found out that the itching she was experiencing on her left arm was the result of detergent infecting it, leading to cancer. The arm had to be further amputated – above the elbow.
She thought her netball career was over, but persisted with the game she loved simply by adjusting the way she played.
“Over time I learned that no matter what people say, the burns are not going to change. Why let what people say worry me when I can be a big rock and show them that I am strong and what they say they cannot bring me down?
“Probably if I could have changed it . . . . When I was a child I had the opportunity to get plastic surgery. I had an artificial hand but it just slowed me down; I was not able to do the things I was accustomed to.
“This is how I am supposed to be. I do not think I would have ever changed it. I like just how I am,” she declared.