Book Shows how Disability has Never Stopped Karen

Date Released - 05/09/2022

“DETERMINED” is a term that doesn’t do justice to Karen Owen. She’s a woman who has defied the odds from day one.

Born with scoliosis, she was written off by doctors who advised her parents to forget about her and go home to their two healthy daughters. They said she was highly unlikely to survive and even if she did she was too brain-damaged to enjoy any quality of life.

Yet, despite this desperate prognosis, Karen has not only managed to hold down a job for 30 years, she’s a member of the Yew Tree Singers and has even flown to Australia.

Her latest achievement has been to celebrate her 50th birthday by completing a book about her life. Inspirational and touching in equal measure, it’s called “I Can – Defying Medical Opinion” and chronicles the struggles she’s faced and the help given to her by Tameside Council as she has built a career.

Karen, who works as a business support officer for the integrated urgent care team (IUCT) at Crickets Lane in Ashton, said: “The reason I’m sharing my story is that I want to tell people about all the things I’ve achieved personally and through working for the council.

“I have a disability and am a wheelchair-user, but that never stopped me. When I was young I was always told I would never achieve anything in my life, and that I was not clever enough to take exams. I was told I wouldn’t be able to drive a car, but I do.

“The more people say I can’t do something, the more I’m determined to prove them wrong. That’s why I’ve entitled my book “I Can” – to show how I’ve defied medical opinion. It took me a long time to write and I’m very proud of it.”

Scoliosis is curvature of the spine that left Karen with a twisted pelvis. It makes her left leg appear shorter than her right, and her breathing capacity is affected. Even so, and in another display of determination, she is able to move very short distances by using a Zimmer frame.

Karen joined the council full-time after completing a two-year YTS placement at the Mulberry Street poll tax unit in Ashton and then for Leisure Services.

Later she was with Social Services where part of her duties was to provide switchboard cover. That led to a permanent post as a telephonist.

She was then a customer care officer with Adult Services before taking up her IUCT role.

Karen said: “All through my time with Tameside I’ve received support from my managers to make sure I’ve had all the equipment and support I required to carry out my day-to-day duties.

“I’m very proud to have worked for the council for so long.”

Cllr John Taylor, Tameside Council’s executive member for adult social care, said: “Karen’s

book tells a truly inspirational story and shows the incredible things people can achieve with the right mindset and support.

“She’s overcome so many obstacles. Even though she was written off at birth, later dismissed as a tragic case, and then had to contend with operations, jackets and braces, she’s still managed to carve out a fulfilling career.

“Karen may be proud to work for Tameside Council, but we’re just as proud to have her with us.”

Copies of “I Can – Defying Medical Opinion” will be available in due course.