This is a lot more than just a toy – Dad in a wheelchair writes a heartfelt post after his daughter received her new Wheelchair Barbie!
Johannesburg South Africa (20 June 2020) – It’s been almost 13 years since Darren Thomas was left in a wheelchair after a traumatic night, where the brave South African woke to the sound of people in his house.
But today – just a day before Father’s Day – Thomas shared a heartfelt post after his daughter got the Barbie she had been eagerly waiting for.
“The fact that Kyla-Jade got incredibly excited when she saw and got her new Barbie, who is in a wheelchair may not seem like much to some but means more than you can imagine to me!! Her thinking ‘it’s so cool’ is quite a big deal. You see she loves me just the way I am, although there are certain things I can’t do for her and anything to her associated with a chair or disability is not looked down on but instead admired.”
On the 23rd of October 2007, Thomas woke-up in the ICU, not understanding what exactly had happened. The brave South African was living with his folks in Northcliff at the time, and took a bullet to his chest and had many stab wounds after fighting off the criminals who had broken into his home.
“The bullet missed my heart by 1mm because of my heart contracting at the moment it passed through. The shell collapsed my lung and skimmed my spine; the bone fragments pierced my spinal cord leaving me paralysed from the chest down.”
They had to remove a third of his lung, and as a result, Thomas ended up with 67 staples in his back. The stab wound to his head with a screwdriver was not deep enough to cause any damage and only left him with six staples. He was in ICU, general ward and then Rehab for three months.
“I had to learn to adapt and live from a wheelchair with no real balance because I basically lost my whole core.”
Going from being on the rugby field, in the gym, going to Kickboxing, riding Superbikes and Jetskis to lying in a hospital bed learning to sit up all over again was a body and mind destroyer for Thomas. Losing the will to live happened, and that is no place he ever would want anyone to be in.
“A time I would never have made it through without my Girlfriend (now my wife), my Family, my Faith and most importantly, God!
It’s been 13 years since the miracle happened. The miracle where God saved my life and the bullet missed my heart by 1mm as it contracted… the miracle that I have got a second chance to live, the miracle that my girlfriend who went through the fire with me and carried me when I couldn’t anymore is now my wife and the miracle that led to many miracles and blessings down the line that I would never have imagined. My family, my friends and the two most important and incredible miracles that again are actually as a matter of fact ‘really a miracle’.”
And in the last 13 years later, Thomas has many things to celebrate, including today, when his daughter specifically chose a Barbie in a wheelchair because it’s “cool” like her Dad.
“One of my biggest worries is that as my kids get older other kids at school may tease them because of my situation, and that would completely tear me apart because this little girl has empathy and sympathy for people who ‘struggle’ in some or other way more than what I’ve seen even in many adults.
The important thing though is as soft and kind as she is she also knows what she wants and she won’t be walked over by anyone… she definitely is a little force to be reckoned with.”
And his young daughter is definitely a force to be reckoned with, who at such a young age has more compassion and perspective than most, and thankfully the Barbie brand has made a doll to capture this and her imagination!
In June 2019, Barbie debuted a doll with a prosthetic leg and another that comes with a wheelchair. The new dolls are part of Mattel’s 2019 Barbie Fashionistas line, which aims to offer kids more diverse representations of beauty.
“As a brand, we can elevate the conversation around physical disabilities by including them into our fashion doll line further to showcase a multi-dimensional view of beauty and fashion,” Mattel said in a statement.
Mattel collaborated with Jordan Reeves, a 13-year-old disability activist who was born without a left forearm, to create the doll with the prosthetic limb, which can be removed for a “more realistic” play experience. The toymaker also worked with UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and wheelchair experts to design a wheelchair, which the company said has been one of the most requested accessories from Barbie fans.
“While there are many types of wheelchairs, this chair is modelled after one that is designed for an individual who has a permanent physical disability,” Mattel said in a statement.
And this Father’s Day, Thomas will be watching his young daughter play with a Barbie… that is far more than just a toy.
“Good on you Barbie for making this specific one especially for those little girls that may be in a chair themselves and may not feel included. This is a lot more than just a Toy.”