Living on wheels

first_imgGreek Australian George Kambouris was born with spina bifida, and has spent all his life in a wheelchair. An insurmountable pavement, a staircase with no ramp or a blocked entrance are the common problems of a physically disabled person’s regime, but George never let such difficulties get in his way.“Living life in a wheelchair is not impossible – it’s challenging, but possible,” says George.George Kambouris is a multiple-medal-winning athlete. He has represented Australia in power-lifting, swimming, hand-cycling, basketball and track. He has never ceased to exercise, lead a healthy life and set new goals. One of his biggest dreams was to help motivate kids in a wheelchair. He is the founder of the Living on Wheels program, as well as an ambassador for Special Care Central Inc.People with a physical disability will find themselves in discomforting situations, experience pain, economic hardships, indifference, hostility even. Before they try to overcome all of the above, they first have to face their own demons. “No one will tell you what you can and can’t do,” George tells Neos Kosmos.There is a certain stigma accompanying people with mobility impairments. Part of that is the misconception that wheelchair users are unused to exercise. “If you’re a wheelchair user, it’s easy to overlook exercise and fitness. Physical activity will, though, help you acquire a more positive and healthy attitude towards life,” he says.“This is my ultimate passion; to help others enjoy the same freedom in life as I do.”Knowing that you have to spend your entire life in a wheelchair can be rather daunting.“My parents and I learned how to deal with it as I was growing up,” he explains.“It wasn’t easy back then and we lacked support.”George aims to use his experience and expertise in sport to help develop important skills that will not only improve people’s health though workout, but help them find motivation, further involve themselves in an empowering activity and become more assertive.“The word ‘never’ must not be used as a guideline. You will not be cured but you can be more independent,” George adds.“All people, disabled or not, share the same basic needs.”According to George, the hardest thing a person in a wheelchair has to deal with is public attitudes. He stresses that apart from the way physical disability might alter an individual’s interaction with the physical world, it may have a large impact on how people treat them.“I do everything a normal person does. My legs might not work, but my brain does. Just treat me like a normal person, working and living in the community,” he says. “Disability sometimes equates to incapacity and non-being in the eyes of others. Worse than harassment and bullying is the often unreasonable apologetic behaviour and over-protectiveness from the ones around you.”Eric Russel, a Paralympian athlete and coach, has been an important mentor to George, who has helped him take over his own life and become more self-aware and assertive.“He taught me never to give up. Even if I failed. Not to rely on others. He made me think positive, to keep on going and never lose faith in myself,” he reveals to Neos Kosmos.“He inspired me to help others with disability.”George highlighted that “trouble-shooting” begins from the moment you start living daily in a chair. Manoeuvrability, and especially neurological problems, amongst many obstacles, become major issues. Spasms, muscular inhibition, pressure sores, osteomalacia and intense pain, that people confined in a wheelchair all deal with, can actually improve with exercise. “I feel the desire to share my knowledge of trying to manipulate the wheelchair, in order to access certain places,” he explains. “Sports like wheelies, basketball, horse-riding can help people make full use of their chair’s capacity in everyday life.”Over the last couple of months, George has spent his time in hospital, undergoing surgery after surgery. Still, he never stops setting new goals.“I want Living on Wheels to grow state-wide, then nationally – so that I can assist people in wheelchairs from all walks of life to live a fuller and happier life with more confidence,” he muses.“I also wish there were more Active & Healthy Parks through Brisbane. More councils should adopt this program which supports disabled people. It is a good way for others in these shoes to start enjoying life.”For more information visit www.livingonwheelsContact George on 0411 797500 and [email protected] Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more