😳 Is disability a tragedy? 🤔
“We shouldn’t think of disability as a tragedy but it was that I could have died - which was the tragedy.” 💬
At 28 weeks of her pregnancy, Anja Christoffersen’s mom was told that her baby 👶 had no stomach and would not be able to survive. 17 years later, her beautiful daughter was walking the runway of Amsterdam Fashion Week. 💃
Between those two moments lie years of 🏥 👩⚕️ hospital admittances, surgeries, the fight for self-determination in Australia’s health care system … as well as the ordinary life 👧 of a happy, self-confident girl growing up.
Anja was born without a normal stomach indeed. Affected by the rare complex of birth defects called VACTERL association, there was even more unusual about the newborn’s body 😧: an extra vertebra, missing bones, no anus but two vaginas, a hole in the heart, the food pipe leading into her lungs, just one kidney…
Reading this list of abnormalities, it is hard to imagine that this girl survived 💪 and keeps on defying all the hardships life throws at her. 24 surgeries, some as early as 5 hours post-birth, and 150+ hospital admissions helped her on this path.
Anja is a champion. Being veered off her academic career path due to her health condition, she got on her feet again and created a different path for herself 🦄: As a model on international runways showing her scars, as a speaker and author, she has become for others what she lacked in her childhood: A role model who makes visible what you cannot see on the outside.
Because behind every beautiful smile is a story, sometimes a story of disability and chronic illnesses. And behind every one of such stories is a champion.
Today, Anja is the founder of Champion Health Agency 🥇, a 'talent agency' for lived experience representing people with disability, chronic illness and carers.
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Episode cover: photo courtesy of Anthony Byron