An inspirational Staplehurst teacher who was left disabled following a minor operation is hoping to be the first person to travel across the Sahara in a wheelchair.
Luisa Pearce went in for day surgery on her wrist in 2014 – and left five weeks later, having been told she would never walk again.
Two years on and the 46-year-old is taking on the 100km Sahara Desert Challenge to raise £50,000 for her new charity, Freedom for Wheels, to help those with mobility issues fund adaptations and equipment to live independent lives.
She said: “I believe I was put in this chair for a reason and that was to help others.”
Mrs Pearce will be spending up to 11 hours a day for five days in the sweltering 40C heat, in a specially adapted wheelchair, to get to the finish line. She also plans to scale the tallest sand dune in the region – the 300m Erg Zaher.
She added: “If I have to crawl across the desert I will crawl but I will do it.”
The mum-of-two, from Greenhill, was left paralysed from the knee down in one leg, and lost the use of her left hand after surgery at Maidstone’s The Somerfield Hospital.
It is thought she suffered an autoimmune disorder, leading her body to attack healthy tissue, but the cause continues to baffle doctors.
Mrs Pearce, who worked as a special needs teacher in Maidstone and Cranbrook, explained: “When I went to hospital, I was expecting to be back at work on the Monday morning, but I never went back.
“I ended up with 26 consultants trying to find out what was wrong with me but no one knows.
“You don’t appreciate what you have until it is taken away from you. But the important thing is I won’t let this beat me.”
Each week she has five hours of physiotherapy and spends 10 hours with a personal trainer at the David Lloyd gym in Kings Hill.
Her recovery has been so successful, last month she walked on crutches for the first time since the operation.
Now she is in training ahead of her trip to Morocco in November, when she will be part of a team of 15, along with her physiotherapist, Richard Kendall.
Mrs Pearce added: “Being disabled has shown me it is incredibly expensive and you get virtually no financial support.
“I have met so many people on this journey who are confined to staying indoors or have to get into debt to afford the equipment they need.
“This challenge is about helping to raise the money and awareness to help other disabled people get their independence back.”
Go to www.freedomforwheels.co.uk for more information.