OCIL My Story
Hello, my name is Catherine and I am privileged with a Personal Assistant service from the Offaly Centre for Independent Living. But before I talk about O.C.I.L., let me tell you a little about myself.
I have Multiple Sclerosis and I am between the use of a Rollator (walking aid) and an electronic wheelchair. I am from and still live in Tullamore. I live in an apartment on my own. I have two Personal Assistants (P.A.s). August 2016 marks 9 years of my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. Life has been a real challenge, in the physical sense as well as the mental and emotional sense. I fight for my positivity and have battled with and for my independence.
I first presented with symptoms at the age of 18. I had finished school and sat my Leaving Certificate the year before and was in college when life as I knew it changed, never to be the same again!! I could not wrap my head around my diagnosis, it scared me to my core!! To say I was devastated puts it mildly. Rather than really deal with the issue in hand, I threw myself into work. As the years passed, my M.S. was very active and I went down hill quickly and drastically. Not that i could see that at the time, it is only when I reflect on the past that I can see that. It in my opinion was my way of coping but in truth I was in denial.
Roll the clock on to 2012, that was a tough year!! I was let go from my job because of my physical disability, my M.S. in short. I had to use a Rollator, not the Triwalker (3 wheeled walker). In the year of 2012 my condition deteriorated massively. It was near the end if 2012 when my step mum and I stumbled upon O.C.I.L.
We were referred to the Offaly Centre for Independent Living Office, on the Clonminch Road, by a family friend, who didn't really know what O.C.I.L. was about, just that it helped people with disabilities. So we went to investigate. We walked into the building, where we were welcomed and greeted by Martina (Receptionist in the Office). My step-mum explained why we were there. Martina asked us to have a seat while she got someone to talk to us and so enters Sean (Leader Coordinator). Sean and some other staff members came out and introduced himself and brought us into a meeting room for a chat..
Sean introduced us to O.C.I.L., it's concepts, how the Centre for Independent Living started, how Offaly Centre for Independent Living started, what they provide, who they cater for, the counties that the Centre look after and a few other pieces of information about O.C.I.L. I found this to be very informative and it sounded very worthwhile. I understood it was worthwhile but I didn't fully realise at the time how it could help me achieve Independent Living, but I sure do now. Sean asked if we would be interested in an application form, and the answer was yes! So me and my Step-mum filled out an application form then and there. We said our goodbyes and left. This was the beginning of my relationship with Offaly Centre for Independent Living.
In the following weeks, I got a phone call from Sean to say that the application had been approved. He asked if I could come in for a meeting with a potential P.A. (Personal Assistant). I agreed and went to the meeting that was set for the following week. I was so nervous and daunted but I need not have been. Sean and the staff of O.C.I.L. were so supportive and understanding. This fact has never changed but remained. O.C.I.L. and it's staff are; so easy to talk with, so patient, so understanding, so supportive and so empowering.
Having O.C.I.L. and availing of their P.A. service has changed my life in that; I am empowered (I moved out of home and live in an apartment where I live independently with the help of my P.A.s), I am encouraged (I got a FETAC Level 5 Certificate in computing) (I became the chairperson of the Leader Forum and we ran a very successful fashion show), I socialize (meet with friends and family for coffee and a chat), I am mobilized (helped by a P.A. to, from, in and out of appointments, I am rewarded (there is nothing like a stay in Clochán House, the respite Centre run by O.C.I.L. I am valued as a member and person (I am still ón the Leader Forum Committee and the Clochán House Leader Advisory Board), I am up-to-date and informed (I get emails, texts, invitations and information about a variety of items, such as, what is going on in the community (both local and national) that concerns people with disabilities), I am enabled (to live an independent life with the assistance of my P.A.s and O.C.I.L.).
I personally feel that my P.A. hours are precious. I loved the uniqueness of O.C.I.L. and that their P.A. service is Leader based and Leader focused. I as a Leader can pick and choose what to do, where to go and so on. I know of other organisations out there that provide a P.A. service but the P.A. is told by the company who they work for what they can and cannot do. Having a service from O.C.I.L. is so worth it for me, as I am responsible for the time my P.A. is with me. It is down to me and me alone as to what gets done or not done, this is certainly Independent Living!
Through Offaly Centre for Independent Living and the work it does; I have met others with disabilities and without disabilities, I have made friends, I have exchanged stories, I have become more involved in the local community, I have a voice and am listened to, not ignored or passed off, I have and do experience life and living, I am supported, I have a laugh or a cry and am met with understanding and empathy. In a few words, in my opinion O.C.I.L. is truly outstanding and one of a kind.
I would and have referred friends and people I know that have disabilities to get in touch with O.C.I.L. even if it is only for a chat and to get the feel of the organisation as it has and does benefit me so much. For anybody reading this who has a disability (newly acquired or one of existence for some time) I encourage you to join O.C.I.L. or at least look into the organisation. For me, my disability has been and continues to be a rollercoaster with at least 4 admissions to hospital alone and having the support and presence of O.C.I.L. in my life makes it all that bit easier!