MY STORY | Doctors gave me 48 hours to live – 23 years later I'm still defying the odds

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Laura Meyer, who was born with spina bifida, was given little chance of survival. Now she's sharing her story to shatter stereotypes and inspire others (PHOTO: Supplied)
Laura Meyer, who was born with spina bifida, was given little chance of survival. Now she's sharing her story to shatter stereotypes and inspire others (PHOTO: Supplied)

The odds were stacked against her when she was born with spina bifida, a neural tube defect that affects the spine.

Doctors gave Laura Meyer just 48 hours to live, but she proved them wrong when she survived the first week, then the first month.

Her diagnosis left her using crutches – yet that hasn’t stopped the 23-year-old Capetonian from chasing her dreams.

Laura now works as a model and fashion designer.

She's sharing her story to inspire others not to let their disabilities define them.

Being alive is something I do not take for granted. I consider myself quite fortunate to have a chance at life and it has given me a greater sense of purpose and value to truly live to the fullest.

Growing up my family, school and friend groups were all very supportive.

I never felt I was different, or special because of my disability.

I attended a mainstream school, and I was able to keep up with my peers in every way.

My twin sister, Emma, encouraged me for as long as I can remember, which made me feel fearless.

Even after we moved to the Eastern Cape to the small town of East London, the people in my community accepted me with open arms.

This support is what helped me overcome the challenges that came my way, especially when trying to navigate a world that isn’t always physically accommodating of persons with disabilities.

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It was only when I started university that I was confronted by the stark realities of the challenges that people living with disabilities face.

At first, it was quite an adjustment to learn to live alone and find my way through university.

I found it rather unfair that people with disabilities have more challenges because the world around us isn’t necessarily built for persons with disabilities.

This is why I decided to use my passion for fashion to educate people on the importance of representation and inclusivity.

I regularly share posts on the importance of transformation and education on my social media to debunk the myths this minority group faces.

I’ve often heard it said disabled people don’t deserve to be loved or in romantic relationships.

This topic is close to my heart because I didn’t grow up surrounded by many persons with disabilities. 

I didn’t have anyone I could turn to for much-needed advice when trying to date.

I would’ve benefitted from discussions like these and would not have let others make me feel undesirable at such a young age.

The truth is all people deserve love.

Another stereotype is that we are not capable.

I have learnt that this stereotype will not be broken unless people are educated on it.

So, I’ve learnt not to take offence but to rather teach people in a gentle and polite way by simply just sharing my experiences with them.

For example, most people are shocked that I can drive and have so many questions that I am more than happy to answer.

A good conversation can really unlock people’s minds.

There is also this stereotype that persons with disabilities are passive.

This is completely untrue, well in my case, at least – I enjoy taking up space! I am talkative and happy with who I am.

I make sure to always be myself wherever I may go and this intrigues people because it’s quite unexpected.

The last stereotype that I absolutely enjoy shattering is that persons with disabilities are not driven.

I work as hard as anyone else.

Throughout fashion school I met every single deadline.

I have never not delivered on something because I am driven and passionate about the work that I do.

I’d like to remind able-bodied people to be mindful of the things you say, share and believe about people with disabilities.

This is why representation is so powerful – it’s the idea that if she can do it, so can I.

As someone who loves myself unconditionally, I am determined to challenge the stereotypes that persons with disabilities face on behalf of those who may not have found their confidence in the world just yet.

All I really want is for everyone to reach their potential, despite the challenges that life may throw their way.

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