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Dominicana Jillian Mercado Had To Watch As Airport Staff Broke Her Wheelchair And She’s Not The Only One Who Has Experienced This

For model and disability activist, Jillian Mercado, travel is a regular part of her schedule. About every three weeks, Mercado flies as part of her job and she has used almost every single airline through the course of her travels. No matter what airline she chooses, the result is always the same. Without fail, there is always a problem with airline workers properly checking and stowing her electric wheelchair. Mercado has spastic muscular dystrophy that tightens her tendons and muscles. As such, walking for any substantial amount of time quickly becomes very exhausting for the disabled activist. In order to aid her mobility, Mercado regularly uses a wheelchair.

“It gives me the freedom to move around and be extremely independent,” Mercado recently shared with FIERCE by mitú. “Without it, my life is pretty much put on pause.”

The model’s most recent interaction with an airline resulted in her chair being manipulated to the point of breaking.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

While traveling out of JFK Airport, Mercado encountered an unfortunately common situation. As per usual, the model filled out the “Claim At Gate” voucher for her assistive device — her 300-pound electric wheelchair. The claim allows her to write down all instructions for her wheelchair so airport workers are able to move and stow the device without problems. Mercado also always verbally explains the important details of her chair’s care to (hopefully) prevent any damage from being done.

There’s also a box to mark if one’s wheelchair can fold down or not. Mercado’s specific chair does not fold down and she was sure to note this both on the form and verbally. Still, it didn’t do anything to stop what happened once her chair was checked.

“There is too many times where — even though you go by the book and add your extra steps — everything is looked past and done by their own accord,” Mercado explained. “In this incident that’s exactly what happened.”

The flight would be delayed by three hours because the airline had difficulties forwarding the model’s chair.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

The disabled activist was told about the difficulty surrounding her chair while she was seated on the full plane. Mercado told FIERCE that she felt embarrassed knowing that the plane full of people knew that her wheelchair was the reason for the delay. Six hours later, she was at her destination but still had to wait an additional hour to get her wheelchair.

Once she saw it being wheeled towards her, Mercado knew there was something majorly wrong with the situation. Realizing what the issue was, she went live on Instagram to document the damage.

“I realized that my chair was not the way that I left it,” the model explained. “They completely snapped the backside where I rest my upper body forward. Like I mentioned before, my chair does not fold and here I saw it completely folded. Soon after, I realized that some cables were also pulled apart.  I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me once again.”

Mercado had no recourse besides reporting the damage at baggage claim.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

It’s important to note that wheelchairs and other assistance devices are not baggage. They’re essential to the mobility and freedom of their users. Often, without access to their devices, disabled people are left to seek aid from friends, family or the kindness of strangers. It’s a completely dehumanizing experience. There is no piece of luggage that can compare to the importance of these devices.

Mercado had to be pushed in a manual wheelchair by an airport worker to report her damaged chair. She was then stuck at the airport without a chair she could leave in and without the ability to get anywhere on her own. Luckily, the model had some friends in the area who were able to help her but she easily could have been stranded without access to the device that affords her freedom.

Mercado has yet to receive a suitable response from JFK about the damage to her chair.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

The only answer Mercado received was an unspecific tweet from JFK Airport. The tweet reads:

“Jillian, we are so sorry that you had to be put through this at our airport. We hope that your chair was functional when you arrived at your next destination. You should reach out to the airline directly if you need to make a claim for any damage to the wheelchair. Good luck.”

Mercado pointed out that the clear lack of a personalized and caring response goes to prove that the airport lacks any disabled representation in leadership.

“This definitely would have not happened if somebody internally knew how important our devices are. I always say: you can’t speak about us without us in the conversation.”

To encourage other disabled Twitter users to share their travel horror stories, Mercado has encouraged the use of the hashtag #DisabledAirlineHorror.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

Traveling while disabled is oftentimes difficult and uncomfortable but it is something that disabled people can do on their own as long as they are given access to the tools needed. Most importantly, Mercado wants the abled people who read her story to understand that disabled people have the right to live — and access to everything that comes with life.

“It’s already enough that society already has us in this stereotype were we don’t go out, aren’t fashionable or date but to experience life is to live it as you please,” Mercado insisted. “We are human beings just like everyone else. If you are going to provide a service, provide it to everyone with respect. This is how we literally move forward in life. That should be respected.”

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Colombia’s Beauty Queen Winner Shared Her Brave Decision To Have Her Leg Amputated

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Colombia’s Beauty Queen Winner Shared Her Brave Decision To Have Her Leg Amputated

danielaalvareztv / Instagram

Miss Colombia of 2011 has long been a light and a role model to little Latinas around the world. At the time of her win in 2011, little girls across Colombia and the world watched as she earned the highest score of 9.6 in the evening gown competition and was crowned while representing the Caribbean coastal department of Atlantico.

The model and former pageant winner who represented Colombia at Miss Universe 2012 is inspiring girls once again.

Earlier this week the model revealed that she had her knee amputated below the knee.

Earlier this month, Alvarez shared with fans that a mass had been discovered in her abdomen and she’d undergone surgery to have it removed. Unfortunately, soon after her operation, she had experienced ischemia in her left leg, meaning the blood supply to the area was cut off. After several operations and complications, Alvarez decided that she would have her leg amputated.

Sharing news of her progress, Alvarez revieled that she loved her body just as much as she did before the amputation.

“I want to share with you my new version, I love my body as before, I am happy to be here in this world to overcome all the challenges that come in my new life. I know that by the hand of God I will achieve EVERYTHING. ‘Feet, why do I want them if I have wings to fly” let’s go forward !!,'” Alvarez wrote in a post shared with fans to her Instagram page. In the image, Alvarez can be seen smiling while surrounded by her family soon after the operation.

In a separate post, Alvarez shared that she had no regrets about the amputation and had not cried about the surgery.

“With my two favorite men in the world who help me recover day by day with his love and company @rickialvarezv @alvarezcamera !!! My @ Lenard.vanderaa was missing ❤️❤️❤️ Here I go, my beautiful people, my third day of recovery, I have not cried for a second (I think only once and it was because of the pain after the surgery).”

So far, Alvarez has received an outpouring of support from her fans. Her posts have received millions of likes and it looks like her recovery is on the up and up.

Here’s to Alvarez and her Latina strength!

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More Latinos Are Struggling With Epilepsy Than You Might Think

Things That Matter

More Latinos Are Struggling With Epilepsy Than You Might Think

camilacoelho / Instagram

Epilepsy is a disorder that is characterized by unprovoked seizures that are not tied to alcohol withdrawal or low blood sugar. The disorder can be genetic or a result of a traumatic brain injury. Hundreds of thousands of Latinos in the U.S. are diagnosed with epilepsy and there is more we can do as a community to help those with the disorder.

There are around 400,000 Latinos who are living with epilepsy.

Camila Coelho, a Brazilian fashion influencer and blogger, recently shared her own journey living with epilepsy. In an interview with PEOPLE, Coelho opened up about being diagnosed with epilepsy since she was 9 years old.

“My mother said to me, ‘Camila, you are a normal child. You will live your normal life. There’s nothing you can’t do,'” Coelho told the magazine.

Coelho is using her platform to educate people about epilepsy.

“I have EPILEPSY and I didn’t let it stop me from achieving my dreams 🙏🏻 💜 I am happy to announce that I am not only an @epilepsyfdn Ambassador, but now also a member of the BOARD,” Coelho shared on Instagram. “As someone who lived with epilepsy since the age of 9, I feel honored and excited to join this amazing team, and help change and save lives of those with epilepsy around the world, who may feel different and alone like I once did!! (I shared more on my stories)! #epilepsyawareness

The Epilepsy Foundation did a study to find out the cultural awareness around epilepsy.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, there is still a perception of fear and misunderstanding around epilepsy. The misunderstandings around epilepsy make diagnosing and treating the disorder a challenge.

There are different therapies and treatments for epilepsy. The Epilepsy lists some of those therapies as:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This form of therapy started in the 1960s and has been successful in helping people to overcome some of their symptoms. This form of therapy is based on the belief that the thoughts are responsible for guiding behavior. The therapy helps to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression that might lead to seizures.

Educational Intervention: Studies have found that people being diagnosed early and supported have a better time adjusting to the diagnosis. The younger someone can learn about epilepsy and how it can be managed with appropriate therapy, the better they can adjust.

Relaxation Therapies: The Epilepsy Foundation claims that massage, acupuncture, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and deep breathing therapies could be beneficial for people living with epilepsy.

Make sure to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your existing treatment plans.

You can learn more about epilepsy and how you can help by going to the Epilepsy Foundation website.

READ: Salice Rose Gave Her Family A Vulnerable Look At Her Mental Health Struggles: “I Was Asking For Help”

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