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Judy

Judy had West Nile Virus, which left her with some disabilities. But she loves the challenges of windsurfing.

(click here to view a text transcript of this video)

My name is Judy and I’m 58 years old. I was a professor at Boston University and at Columbia, did a lot of writing, practiced law and in September of 2002, I got West Nile Disease. The virus went into my brain and it caused something called encephalitis. I was pretty much paralyzed on the left side, and I ended up with epileptic seizures.

When I’m out windsurfing, I am only thinking about windsurfing, and I am either enjoying the speed and kind of going with the wind - it feels a little bit like I’m flying. Or, I’m trying to figure out what the heck I should do next so I don’t fall off the board. Sometimes its just enjoying the feeling of soaring, and sometimes its just ‘Oh my gosh’ what do I do now, because I have to think really quickly so the sail doesn’t hit me in the head and fall off and then have to climb back on.

I love the challenge and I need the challenge. People who are disabled need a challenge just as much as people who aren’t disabled. The only real adaptation I need is that I can’t tell left and right so the instructor and I have a system - he doesn’t use left and right, because my brain doesn’t know it any more. So he gives me very simple instructions and we have to take breaks to make sure I don’t have a seizure and we have a plan if I do. So I have really needed less and less as I’ve rehabilitated.

Everybody’s an individual, and regardless of the disability people have strengths, people have weaknesses. Sometimes people assume I am not smart, because maybe I speak differently. I would hope people don’t assume something because of that about me and about other people about how smart they are, or about what kind of person they are.

Sometimes it can be lonesome having a disability because you are different in some ways. If people remember, you know, that we’re people too, and they might get to know someone who’s really fun and great, maybe it won’t be as lonesome for disabled people.