Since becoming an HMSA Patron, I've decided to update my 'About me' page for my website. I combined the mini biography I've sent to the HMSA with my current web biog, but was thinking it might be too much info, and too long and boring. So here is a draft for comment before I put it on my website. It will also have a photo of me in it. What do you think?
Author and Illustrator
HMSA Patron for Kids and Teens
As a child Drs decided there was nothing wrong with her and that her problems were 'all in the head', but her Mum concluded she was bendy, injured more easily than most people and took longer to heal. She also decided that this wasn't indicative of anything serious, just 'how Hannah was'. Something to respect, but not worry about. Except make sure Hannah stood with good posture, kept as active as possible and didn't get too exhausted. It wasn't until she was diagnosed that Hannah realised just how wise her Mum had been.
Hannah got through school with good grades despite an unusually high level of sickness absence - including missing 6 months in year 7, and went on to complete A-Levels and get a 1st Class Honours degree in Environmental Health from King's College London, followed by a career in Environmental Health.
Within 2 years of starting work, the random joint issues and fatigue had reached disabling levels and she was diagnosed with HMS/EDS (being far too bendy) and a year later with POTS (tap-dancing heart and appearing drunk without alcohol).
It was when hospitalised with her first severe POTS attack, which left her too weak to hold a proper conversation for months that the first bendy stickmen appeared. Posted on the hypermobility forum they proved popular and became a booklet.
She continued working in a conventional job until 2009, adapting her hours, role and office around her complex requirements (joint strain, temperature, rest breaks etc.), and drawing stickmen primarily because she thinks they are funny, but also to raise money for the HMSA and awareness and understanding of HMS, until her medical retirement in 2010 - age 28.
After retiring, Hannah initially worked a few of hours a month as a Maths tutor, but being an author and illustrator has now taken over. She has 4 disability cartoon books (a fifth is well on the way) raising money for the HMSA, 2 children's books raising money for Whizz-Kidz, plus stickman wheelchair signs, communication cards, other disability related products and commissioned work including T-shirt designs for comedian Lost Voice Guy, the CMTA - and of course the HMSA!
In addition to the awareness raising work of each book she has created, Hannah is increasingly in demand at events, disability fairs, booksignings, and schools - working to create a better future for us all.
A combination of physiotherapy, learning to control her movements, pacing, medication, respecting her limits, pushing her boundries, making the most of everything and generally choosing to focus on the positives means that she lives a full and happy life. So what if she uses wheels to get out and about, rests frequently and owns enough joint supports to create an entire exoskeleton?
Although proud of her stickman empire, Hannah thinks her greatest achievements have been in learning to manage her HMS/EDS and POTS and keeping up with her physio regime. It is an ongoing learning process, but has made so much difference to her life.
Having said that, her proudest day of all time has to be 26th April 2012.
The day she was officially appointed HMSA Patron for Kids and Teens.
Throughout her work there are 2 points which keep coming up: 1 Disability, and 2. Raising money for ‘her’ charities - whizz-kidz and the HMSA. The disability thing isn't deliberate - it just happens to be her normal so it keeps sneaking in. The charity thing IS deliberate. 'Cos they are amazing.
I have no idea why I wrote that in the third person.
Or why people fall in love with my work.
But I am very glad they do!
For more of my ramblings, see my blog.