Hannah’s Story

Hannah Thompson’s Extraordinary Life

Do The Impossible

 

Hannah’s Story: In Hannah’s Words

I was born to make people realize that the impossible is possible…

…with hard work, good people, and a ton of motivation; anybody can do their version of impossible.

When I was born, the doctor made a mistake. It ultimately led to a significant lack of oxygen for over ten minutes. I had survived but part of my brain would be permanently damaged. The damage was later diagnosed as Cerebral Palsy with an onset of Dystonia, a movement disorder causing my limbs to move involuntarily. I use a wheelchair to get around and a communication device to speak. 

This is what my medical diagnosis is; it doesn’t define who I am, my values, or my quality of life.

Mom and Dad made sure I had a typical childhood. Mom fought really hard to have me in a typical preschool classroom. I was crawling around and playing with the other kids. We moved to a suburb called Glenview because the school districts were much more prepared when it came to special education. In elementary, middle, and high school I was mainstreamed. I don’t have cognitive impairments so I just needed physical help in the classroom. The school provided an instructional aide to help me take notes, get stuff out of my backpack, and the occasional dissection of an animal.

Hopefully, you’re getting the picture which is a very intelligent girl in a body that doesn’t coöperate whatsoever. 

My biggest extracurricular activity was physical, occupational, and speech therapy. It wasn’t fun but I think I understood at a very young age that it would lead to independence. Usually, I would be so bored despite my therapists’ best efforts to make it fun. However, the very rare five or six independent steps would remind me why I did the countless hours of therapy. My parents would also do therapy with me. 

Like any good parents, they understood I needed balance in my life.

They encouraged me to be social in high school which was an enormous challenge. The “normal” kids didn’t want to associate themselves with me because I was the different kid. However, the kids who had disabilities were friendly with me but we were all at different cognitive levels so meaningful friendships were few and far between. I desperately needed a niche in high school and I think the extracurricular activity I ended up fitting into was the biggest shock to my parents

(I had more surprises for them in store but this was the first real shock). 

The shock came when I announced I wanted to audition for the speech team. I later found out that my mom said to my dad later that night, “does she know that she cannot speak?” I don’t know what the rest of their conversation consisted of but I do know that I made the Glenbrook South High School Speech Team three years in a row.  Years later, I am so grateful that school administrators and the coach took a chance to give me a chance that ultimately started my speaking career. 

We didn’t have a clue what to the future held.

I just knew that I was accepted by a group of really talented and intelligent kids. I was so happy when I was in speech team practice and tournaments. It also looked great on college applications! When it came to college, I had to be fairly close to home; I liked the idea of a small school, and of course scholarships helped! It came down to Marquette University or Elmhurst College. Elmhurst offered a scholarship and was much closer to home. I was extremely encouraged to go to Elmhurst by everyone. 

It ended up being the best decision of my life.

At Elmhurst, I absolutely thrived!  I had become an employer at age 18 and suddenly had to manage personal care assistants but I had so much fun that it was worth it. I lived in a residence hall independently too. I loved being independent and making my own decisions. I joined a sorority and really developed a sense of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

I joined Phi Mu during the second semester of college. 

The girls accepted me as one of their own. I went to all the social functions and attended the weekly mandatory meetings. It was the first time I ever was fully accepted by girls my age. They would help me eat and listen to me when I had to vent about the challenges of living independently.

I also turned to Jesus in college. Yes, I had amazing friends and caregivers but I needed someone who could hear my thoughts so I didn’t have to put forth effort to speak. That guy was God. I could tell Him anything and He would listen. That led me to joining Catholic Students in college. I found them relatable and extremely friendly. In short, this led me to being confirmed in the Catholic Church.

It’s a long story and I would love to share my spiritual journey with you sometime.

Meanwhile, I had met a professor who saw my speaking career when I saw a very blurred, mysterious vision that I knew was possible but struggled to define. I came to her with a proposal of an independent study. She believed in the idea and more importantly, me! Ironically, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago asked me to speak about going to college independently. My speech at the Institute was really the first day of my career as a speaker.  Through Elmhurst College I participated in a LeaderShape program which encouraged me to look more seriously at my own leadership skills.

After graduation, I interned at Easter Seals DuPage and then got a job as a social media consultant at River North Business Association. They replaced me for a marketing team and I have pursued my career as a motivational speaker since then. 

I still live independently; I just purchased a condo.

You might have noticed that everything was building me up to achieve the highest level of independence. I truly believe that was God doing the incredible work He constantly does in all of our lives. I hope we can connect soon.

Do Your Impossible,

Hannah!