Air hostess who became paralysed due to rare condition has fulfilled dream to become a model
An air hostess who became suddenly PARALYSED has fulfilled her dreams of becoming a MODEL.
Gemma Flanagan, from Liverpool, had just returned from a stop over in Las Vegas when she suddenly collapsed, and soon became frozen in her own body – unable to move, speak or even swallow.
The 31-year-old was rushed to intensive care where medics battled to save her life.
The brunette beauty underwent a gruelling seven week rehabilitation, where she learnt to speak, write and walk again.
But determined Gemma battled against the odds, and despite her condition, has fulfilled her dreams of becoming a model.
Today, Gemma will be taking part in a fashion show – in her wheelchair – that promotes more diversity within the modelling industry.
Gemma said: “Becoming a model and getting involved in this show has really helped me come to terms with my condition.
“I’m proving to myself that despite my health being different, I’m still me.
“I’d always dreamt of becoming a model but when I became ill, I didn’t think it was possible.
“It’s hard sometimes, because I wanted to make a full recovery and go back to the way I was before, but I have to accept that might not happen, and I now unfortunately need to rely on my wheelchair’
“I just want people to know that because someone is disabled, or in a wheelchair or on crutches, it doesn’t mean they’re not like everybody else.
“I hope my story will inspire people and change how disability is thought of.”
Gemma suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a rare condition that causes the body to attack its own nervous system – causing paralysis and even death.
Beautiful Gemma was diagnosed in 2011, after experiencing pins and needles, and eventually collapsing on her way to work.
At first, Gemma felt fine, but soon the condition took hold and she ended up in intensive care.
Gemma said: “When they moved me to intensive care, I was warned that I might not be able to breathe for myself, and I’d need a tube fitted to feed me.
“They even mentioned the possibility that I could die.
“I just couldn’t believe it – a week before I’d been having the time of my life in Vegas.”
Miraculously Gemma responded to treatment – her condition stabilised and she began intensive rehabilitation.
Gemma said: “It was a tough time but every little thing was a big achievement.
“I’d get so happy if I could just wiggle my toes or hold a pen.
“It was hard being in rehab, but the staff were amazing.
They encouraged me to do normal things and did stuff like paint my nails for me.
“They even helped me get dressed for a date and let my friends come in to do my hair and tan.”
After returning home, Gemma came across Models of Diversity whilst browsing online.
The company aims to promote diversity within the modelling industry, and encourages big name brands to use disabled models in their campaigns.
Gemma said: “I got involved with Models of Diversity immediately and started modelling – I couldn’t believe that I was doing something I’d always dream of.
“It’s about seeing beyond the metal and the rubber, the wheelchair, to see the person behind it or in it.
“That’s why I wanted to model in my chair.
“I have disabilities, I am not defined by my disabilities
“It’s sticking fingers up to people who think disability doesn’t have a place within fashion.
“I’m telling people you can do things, you just have to do things in a different way.”
“People think sexy and disability don’t go together, that you can’t be sexy in a wheelchair, that you can’t be glamorous, but I want to show that you can.”
Now, Gemma is determined to get the fashion industry to take disabled models seriously.
She said: “Currently there are no agencies in the UK with models with disabilities on their books.
“No UK brands employ any models with disabilities.
“We just need to be given a fair chance.”
For more information about Models of Diversity visit: http://www.modelsofdiversity.org/