Name: Brittany Wiseman
Where do you call home? St. Louis, Missouri
Occupation/Employment: I work for Farmers Insurance. My manager's mother has MS, so she is familiar with the hardships disabilities can cause. She is incredibly understanding of FA and for that, I am beyond thankful.
Education: I originally went to school to become a vet tech. As my FA progressed, I realized the physical demands of this career were challenging. I changed my major to social sciences. Ultimately, I landed in the insurance field, became licensed, and chose this as my career.
How long have you been living (or known you are living) with Friedreich's Ataxia? I've been living with FA for 10 years. I was diagnosed at the age of 15 when I was doing routine testing prior to having scoliosis surgery. I was being tested for Neurofibromatosis (a disease my brother has) I had a horrifying experience. I was told "good news is you don't have Neurofibromatosis, bad news is you have Friedreich's Ataxia."
Do you have any known family history of Friedreich's Ataxia or similar symptoms? My mom and brother have both had scoliosis surgery. My mom has high arches in her feet. My great grandmother was told she had Parkinson's and when she passed, their was never really a known cause of death. My family has always questioned if it was truly Parkinson's.
Describe your transition from walking to walker/wheelchair. I have walked for the full 10 years I've lived with FA. Every year, there are significant changes in how far I'm capable of walking. Over the years, I have lost my ability to step up onto a sidewalk, use stairs, or conquer hills or inclines. I ordered a wheelchair at the age of 23. I got it because I couldn't get around college. I've never relied on it too much. I continue relying on friends/family to hold onto, or I "furniture walk." I can walk about 30 feet without assistance. I purchased a walker this year because I've had two falls that resulted in a sprained arm and a concussion. My work has also relocated and I need the walker to get in/out of my office. Each day differs, so I would say I'm still transitioning from walking to counting on others or my walker/wheelchair.
What do you like to do to stay active and what type of exercises do you do to stay strong? I walk, literally until my legs don't move anymore. I consider walking a pretty darn good way to stay active for an FAer! I do exercises at night in my bed that I was taught at PT to keep my core strong.
What's your most comfortable pair of shoes to wear? Flats! But they don't last long. My feet bend them out of shape within a few months.
What is one way living with FA has POSITIVELY affected your life? I have met some of the most courageous people in the world. I've built special friendships and bonds with other FAers who share the same determination as me. They are the best of friends, who understand my good days and bad days.
What is the best advice you could give to a person who has been newly diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia? Every FAers journey is different. Keep positive through this life long battle. Toss the naysayers to the curb and surround yourself with family, friends, and inspirational people who you meet in your journey.
What is the first thing you want to do when a cure/treatment for Friedreich's Ataxia is found? I want to go jogging to a shoe store and buy 6 inch stilettos!
"I have FA but FA doesn't have me." What does this statement mean to you? How do you live your life in the face of adversity? To me, it means FA can't control my life. It can slow me down, but I'll always get to my goal. I live in the face of adversity by telling anyone who stares, points, laughs, or accuses me of being drunk to kick rocks. ;) Anybody who deliberately attempts to poke fun of me is the misfortunate one, not me!