My PA & I
I’m Paul from Rhode aged 37. I was born with Cerebral Palsy and I have used a power chair all my life.
I became a Leader with Offaly Centre for Independent Living in 1999 and availed of their Personal Assistant service (PA). Back then, I was just finished school so there wasn’t much going on in my life at that particular time. Once I was up and showered in the mornings, I found that we just looking at each other saying “what now”, then I realized I didn’t need a PA around the house once I was up. I needed a PA to take me out of the house. So that PA didn’t last long. Months later, I started a computer course in Tullamore. This is when I got my second PA, which worked a lot better for me. A family member would bring me in and meet her in Tullamore before the course started, she would stay in the class with me and help me if needed. Then she would get me lunch and something to drink. I found this great, I had work to do and she was on hand to help me and we weren’t looking at each other saying “are you still here??”
After that course, I was able to get work experience in Edenderry. It didn’t suit the PA I had in Tullamore to travel to Edenderry with me, so I had to apply to get a different PA. A few weeks later, I got my new PA again and she was good at her job. By this time, I was able to buy myself an accessible van which is a God send for me. This PA didn’t feel comfortable driving my van which is fine, if she wasn’t completely comfortable, there’s no point in pushing her.
Soon after I got my first job, it was a CE Scheme in Rhode. I really enjoyed it there as I knew everyone who was employed there. The PA I had in Edenderry was able to join me in Rhode, but a few months later, she got ill and I got a replacement. A family member would drop me to work, then one day the replacement asked why do you have to rely on a family member to drop you in. My answer to her was well I am disabled, I can’t walk hence the wheelchair, clearly you are a great PA I said. She said something that I can’t repeat, then she said that she would drive my van which took a lot pressure off family members. Months later, it was time for my original PA to come back, but the replacement and I really got on well and I felt that she was good for me. She wanted to stay as my PA, she basically begged me. So it was up to me to make the decision which PA I felt was best for me. So the fact that she could drive my van was the thing that swung it in her favour. (Not her age or looks!)
By the way, the replacement PA is my current PA Noeleen. We spent a few years in Rhode which was great, but I felt I needed to spread my wings. An opportunity came up for me to go to college in Athlone. It was only for nine months really so I said I would give it a go. I was really interested in how my classmates would view myself and Noeleen. It turns out the both of us got on very well with all classmates and tutors. Noeleen turned out to be the mammy of the class. If anyone needed help during the class, they would ask Noeleen and she would help them, then come back to me. I would say “do they think you are some kind of teacher?” Noeleen said “Yes I think so.” Then I would say, "It’s nice to see both of us are winging college!"
I passed my summer exams, thanks to a lot of pressure from Noeleen. I’m back in September going on to do Software Development (Apps and Connected Devices) it will be a huge challenge. Sure I’ll see how I get on and I’ll take it one class at a time.
Noeleen is my PA for over six years now, it’s a LONG LONG time, and we are together so much we get invited to weddings together. So without my PA Service I wouldn’t have done half as much in my life and I definitely wouldn’t be attending college so I am very proud to be part of Offaly Centre for Independence Living.