Episode 4 Transcript

[intro music]

 

Sarah Todd:

Hi, I'm Sarah Todd Hammer, and this is Positively Opposite. The podcast where you'll discover through the experience and knowledge of myself and others that disability is not always a negative thing — but in fact, it can be quite the opposite.

 

[intro music]

 

Sarah Todd:

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Positively Opposite podcast! Today I have Hana Prochazkova with me. I've known Hana for a few years now. We first connected on Instagram, and we've since become great friends. Hana has bought my books and has been a great, genuine supporter of mine. She's 20 years old and lives in the Czech Republic. She's a podcaster herself and a writer as well. She even has her own blog. I'm so excited to chat with Hana today, because she has a disabled sibling named Eliska, who is 22 years old. Learning about the disability experience from a sibling perspective can offer us some interesting insight, so I know we are going to have a fabulous conversation. Hana, I'm so happy to have you on my podcast!

 

Hana:

Happy to be here. Thanks for having me. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Of course! I'm so excited to chat with you today. So I know we're going to have a great conversation, so we can just get right on into it! 

 

Hana:

Sure. 

 

Sarah Todd:

So, what's your relationship like with your sister, and how has having a disabled sibling changed you? 

 

Hana:

I should probably first say what her disability looks like. So she was born prematurely. She was born in the fifth month of the pregnancy, and so she is physically disabled. She can't walk. She can't really hear. She can't really see well, and she can't swallow — she can swallow, but she can't swallow big pieces of food, so we have to blend everything for her. And she's also mentally disabled. She can't speak. And because of her mental disability, the relationship is very different than your average sibling relationship would be, because we can't have conversations, obviously. But she does know who I am. She recognizes people, and I take care of her, so she knows that. She knows if it's mom or if it's me, and sometimes she does come for a hug. So there is definitely a bond, but it's very different than my other relationships with my other siblings, because I have three more siblings. How has it changed me? I don't really know, because she is two years older than me, so I was born and she was my only sibling, and so I was used to it my whole life. So maybe it has not changed me, but I am different. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That's an interesting way of putting things. Since she was your only sibling that was around when you were born, it's true you didn't know any different. And I love how you worded that you are most likely different because of your sibling being disabled, but it hasn't necessarily changed you, because it's all you've known. 

 

Hana:

Exactly. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Yeah, that's so interesting. I love that. And I think that it's really cool that you have a great relationship, and she recognizes you, and she wants to hug you, and you have the opportunity to take care of her and really show how much you love her in that respect. And it is different from a relationship that you might have with your able-bodied sibling, but it's still a great relationship, and it's no less valuable than that kind of relationship. 

 

Hana:

Definitely.

 

Sarah Todd:

So to that end, do you think you're more aware of topics related to the disability community because of your sister, and are you maybe aware of things you don't think you would have ever been aware of?

 

Hana:

I think so. I think so. I definitely  think about accessibility more wherever I go. I kind of think about how would I get here with a wheelchair. How would I get here. Would we have to take her out of the wheelchair and carry her somewhere? Because we were able to do that. My dad or my mom — they would carry her a lot, but now she's 22, so she's almost as big as my mom, so we can't really carry her anywhere. Are there lifts? In restaurants, will they blend the food for us? Can we order something that doesn't have pieces in it? Like soups and all of that. So I'm definitely more aware of that. And I think I'm also more aware of just the possibility of people being disabled and needing something more than maybe I do. I am also more aware of how much it affects a family. I'm more aware of situations where, maybe, the father leaves the family because the child is disabled, and the mom needs to take care of the child. And I'm more aware of it being financially hard. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Of course. 

 

Hana:

So I think about that more, and other people would probably — it wouldn't cross their minds. Not because they wouldn't care, but they just don't realize that all of this comes with it. 

 

Sarah Todd:

I definitely thought you would have been more aware of topics related to the community, because you are so directly involved. And I love that you mentioned that you always think about accessibility when you're out, because you have a sense of what disabled people often might need. And I feel the same way, because even though I'm not a wheelchair-user myself, I was for about two months. And so whenever I'm somewhere I'm like, “Okay, is there a ramp? Is there an accessible restroom?” And I'm always looking at things and thinking about that, because it's so important for places to be accessible, and they're very often not. 

 

Hana:

Restrooms is another thing that now that you mentioned it — I remember a couple times when I would go to an accessible restroom, and everything would be fine and in place and everything. You would be able to go and everything. But for example, the switch would be way too high — the light switch. Or the tissues would be too high. Or even the button to call help would be somewhere where the person would not be able to reach. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right. That's also true. They need to think about the accessibility experience as a whole — not just having a bigger restroom that wheelchair-users have access to. 

 

Hana:

Yeah, and not just take one type of disability and then cater everything to that one type.  Because we would go to a health resort stay every single year. My family and I would go. And it would be a house full of kids with different disabilities. I was always used to different kinds of disability. There would be people that would be wheelchair-users, people that would not be wheelchair-users but they would still have some kind of disability. There would be people that would be mentally disabled. And so people often don't realize that disability can have so many forms. It's not just a person sitting in a wheelchair because they were in a car accident and so they can't walk or they were born like it. There's so many other things, and we kind of have to think about making things a little more versatile in accessibility. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right, because there's so many different kinds of disabilities, and although we might have some accessibility needs in common, my accessibility needs as someone with arm and hand paralysis in certain areas of my arms and hands — I have way different accessibility needs than someone who's a paraplegic. So it's really difficult to accommodate all of us, but if companies bring in different perspectives — different disabled people — and they ask us what we might need, they could definitely have a better accessibility experience within their building, and all of that would be much better. 

 

Hana:

Right, right. 

 

Sarah Todd:

So since you mentioned that your sister was born before you, so she was already around before you were and you've always known you had a disabled sister, how did you first become aware of that? Because of course, when you were born, she was already around, so when and how did you become aware of your sister's disability? 

 

Hana:

Right, this is hard for me to answer, because I honestly don't know. I don't know when I realized, “Oh, you know, she's disabled.” Because I always knew that she was different, but it didn't really seem different to me, because again I was born two years after her. It was completely normal to me. And as I already mentioned, since I was little — since I was literally a baby — we would go to these health resort stays, and we would spend a month there. And there were kids that were disabled — all kinds of disabilities. All kinds of things that were different or quote unquote “weird.” But they weren't weird to me, because I was used to it, and I felt like I was a part of them. I didn't feel different. I was there for a month since I was a little baby, and then every single year we would go back, and we would meet the same people. So I had friends there, and I would go to the procedures with them. We would all exercise together. I did the exercises with them. I played with them. And I guess it was only when I was bigger that I started to see people maybe looking at us a little weird or maybe being scared. And I realized that some people might not find it normal. And that was probably when I started thinking about it a little more. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That makes sense, because you were being treated differently because of Eliska's disability, and so that's when you started realizing, “Well, like, why are we being treated differently?” 

 

Hana:

So the thing is I was also born prematurely, and when we went to those health resort stays — I don't know how to say it in English — I also did procedures for some time. They were different because I wasn't disabled, but I still did some of the procedures. I went to the pool with them. I did the exercises with them. All of that. And after a while, I realized that maybe — I didn't realize that she was disabled, but I realized that people treated us differently even though I thought we were the same. She just wasn't able to speak, and we had to blend her food. So what?

 

Sarah Todd:

Right, that's so interesting that it was really other people's reactions that made you realize, because I'd always wondered. Like, did your parents ever explicitly tell you anything? Or did you just kind of catch on? I just didn't really know what that experience would have been like, so that's super interesting. 

 

Hana:

I honestly don't know. Maybe my parents did talk to me, but I just don't remember. And I don't remember ever asking. I don't remember ever asking like, “Why can't she walk?” or “Why can't she this?” because maybe — we had pictures from when she was born, and so mom told us the story the same way that she would tell my story, because we were both born prematurely. And so both are pretty miraculous stories that we survived at that time with that. Biology and everything is better now, but 22 years ago is quite a long time ago. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Yeah, yeah. That's amazing. 

 

Hana:

So, yeah. I don't know. I always kind of knew. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That's so interesting to me, because obviously, I'm disabled, and I wasn't born disabled. So when I became disabled, my siblings I think were kind of getting information from my parents, and they obviously knew that I had not been disabled initially and now I was. So it seems like that could honestly be more of a complicated process in some ways. 

 

Hana:

Something they needed to get used to. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right. But it's also interesting because I think if you have a sibling who was born disabled and it's all you've ever known, there would be different questions that would come up for you that wouldn't come up for my siblings.

 

Hana:

Right. 

 

Sarah Todd:

And I'm also interested in this health place. So is this something that's in the Czech Republic? Is it kind of like a hospital or a place where you go? 

 

Hana:

So I was looking for a way to say this word in English, and the only word that I found was “spa,” but a spa sounds kind of like you go there to relax and bathe in mud or whatever to make yourself prettier or whatever. But these places were kind of something in between a spa and a hospital. We would just go there, and we would have procedures. So every day, you would go have procedures. So there would be procedures like going to the pool, which would be a warm pool that kind of relaxes the muscles and whatever. Then we would do exercise in the pool or outside of the pool. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That's so interesting. So it sounds like it was just a place to go just to better your health and just kind of spend some time for your own health. 

 

Hana:

Yeah, and if some of the kids had injuries, it would help them maybe to regain some of their movement or they needed to exercise or learn how to walk again or learn how to use their arm again or whatever. So it would just be full of different people, and each child needed something else. They would all be there. The place that we used to go to does not exist anymore.  Somebody bought it and rebuilt it into an actual spa for adult people. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Okay, that's so interesting. I've never heard of anything like that. I love hearing about how different healthcare is in the U.S. versus other countries and what people do for treatment, like what treatment options they have or therapy options or things to be independent. That's so interesting. 

 

Hana:

Right, so I guess this was kind of a mix of treatment and physiotherapy and exercise. And that one place was only for kids, so it would be just parents with children. And that is where I also realized you know that the absence of fathers is extremely common in families with disabled children, because usually it would just be the moms. The moms were there taking care of the kids, so that was a common thing you saw was there were often no dads and only moms. And sometimes a dad would come visit, and it was always kind of rare. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Wow, that's so sad. That's awful. I never really noticed that as much in the U.S. I mean, I know a lot of disabled people. I have so many disabled friends. And I feel like, of course, every family kind of has their own issues or their parents can be divorced or something. But I'd never considered whether some couples got divorced because they had a disabled child or if some of the parents left because of that. And that's awful when that happens, and I'm sure that has happened in the U.S. many times, and it's really sad to think about.

 

Hana:

I mean, obviously, as you say, each family has their issues, and it's not that every single divorced couple is because they had a disabled child. But very often, it happens that the father just leaves, because he's not able to bear the thought of having a disabled child. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That's awful. That's horrible. There's just so many ableist views that we have in the whole world that if we could just get people to challenge those views, the treatment of disabled people would be so much better. 

 

Hana:

Right. And a lot of people were shocked that my dad was still with my mom. And not only that they were together and had a disabled child, but they had more children. They were not afraid to have more kids. But my dad never would dream of leaving just because his daughter was disabled. So it's kind of even sad that it brings shock that he's still — people admire him for it, but I mean, yes but why is it admirable? It should be normal. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Yeah, it's basically — the bare minimum is to be there for your child, and that's what he's doing, and so it shouldn't be praiseworthy at all. And I'm sure he is a great dad, but simply staying there for your disabled child — 

 

Hana:

He can be very praiseworthy for other things. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right, right. But that's not praiseworthy. He can be a great dad in other ways, but he shouldn't be praised for wanting to be a father to his disabled child and his other children. 

 

Hana:

Yeah. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That's so awful that people think like that. 

 

Hana:

It is sad. 

 

Sarah Todd:

So it sounds like you got to make a lot of memories with your sister at the health center, but have you had any amazing memories with your sister that you want to share? 

 

Hana:

It is not easy to have one memory and say that it's the greatest memory I have with her, because we have a lot of memories of just simply living. I don't know. I am kind of a person that romanticized her life. Everything for me is kind of a great experience or a great memory. I don't remember that, so I don't know if that counts as a memory, but I taught her how to crawl. So when she was a baby, at first my parents didn't know that she was physically disabled, and then they kind of started finding out, because she was not progressing. She wouldn't go on all fours and crawl, or she wouldn't start walking. And when I was born and then when I was a little older — I don't know how old. I was one and a half. I don’t know when a child starts crawling. I started crawling. And she would want to play with me, but I would be crawling away, and so she kind of started to crawl as well. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Oh, that's so sweet. I love that story. That's adorable. That's super sweet. So from a young age, you were already making memories with her. 

 

Hana:

Yes. And then another more recent I guess memory was that because of her, my mom doesn't travel a lot, because she's basically the only person that is able to take care of her fully. And then the other person is me. And so in early 2020 actually before COVID, we decided that my mom needs to travel. And so my mom and the rest of the family went to Florida, and I was at home with Eliska for 14 days, which was a very nice experience. It was a challenge. I'm not gonna lie, because it is hard to take care of a fully grown adult for 14 days 24/7, especially when maybe sometimes she has trouble sleeping, so she would be up all night, and I would have to be up all night, too. You have to feed her, you have to change her diapers, you have to change her, and you have to keep her entertained, because sometimes she would watch the TV, and she's able to watch the TV for a few hours because she sees colors and nice things. But she can’t do that all day, every day, and so she does need some entertainment. And you have to bathe her. Sometimes you have to take her outside so she's not at home all the time. But I think it was a bonding experience for us, too, and it was really nice, because I got to take care of her. I got to be with her. I got to spend time with her. And you also learn to communicate, because communication is hard since she can't talk, but there is ways to communicate. She will let you know that she's hungry, she will let you know that she's unhappy, she will let you know she's happy, she will let you know that she needs a diaper change, or  whatever. So I think that was nice. 

 

Sarah Todd:

You really got to spend a lot of time together, and it sounds like it was a great experience. And I think that's really special you got that time together. 

 

Hana:

It also really showed me how much my mom does, and you can't really see it, but she works all day, every day. And she's incredible. I mean, I was exhausted after 14 days, I will be honest. It's not easy. She is an adult woman. She is bigger than me. She is as big as my mom. And it's not easy. But it is worth it. It is definitely worth it. Because seeing her happy and knowing that you made her happy is a great feeling. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right. I'm sure you know it's not easy, but it's very rewarding. And I've thought about that with my mom a lot, because of course, she does a lot more for me than she would if I weren't disabled. So I remember saying to her once — it was my 16th birthday, and she was helping me get dressed, and I was like, “Did you think that when you had a kid you would still be helping her get dressed on her 16th birthday?” And I was just kind of making a joke. She was like, “Nope! I didn't!” And she doesn't mind at all. She loves helping me with anything I need. But I was just kind of making a joke there. And so it is a lot of work for these moms and dads — if the dads are helping a lot, too. Because they should be. There's no reason they can't. And caregivers as well. And I think it's really nice of us to acknowledge it and respect them for that, but also, I think we should let them know that it isn't necessarily praiseworthy at the same time. Because they should be there for their child. We can acknowledge that it's not praiseworthy while also respecting it and realizing that they do put in a lot of hard work and it's not easy. 

 

Hana:

Yeah, and especially for other people I think. As I said, sometimes I think the moms or the caregivers or whatever — they don't care for your praise. They don't need people to come up to them and be like, “Oh my goodness! You're incredible! You're taking care of your child right now!” 

 

Sarah Todd:

Like what else do you expect them to do? 

 

Hana:

Yeah, what would they answer you? They'd be like, “Oh, thank you! I was really waiting for someone to recognize me!” I think what is their reward is seeing the child happy and knowing that they're doing a good job and having a relationship with the child. But I think it's important to tell other people this can happen to anyone. They can have a child, and their child is born prematurely, or their child has a sickness or whatever, or they fall somewhere and break their legs, or whatever. Or your husband or whoever.  We are sometimes so comfortable that we're like, “Oh, I would never be able to do that.” 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right. That's what a lot of people think. What do they think they would do? It's so funny, because like you mentioned, when moms might praise your mom or any mom of a disabled child for taking care of them, they don't realize that when they're doing that they're essentially saying, “If that were me, I couldn't do that. I would just abandon my child. I wouldn't take care of them.” That's essentially what they're saying. And it’s awful. 

 

Hana:

Honestly if that is the truth — if you are weak — if you are so weak that you would do that — it is good that you acknowledge that. But oh my goodness, do something with that. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right. Change that mindset, please! 

 

Hana:

Exactly. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That's horrible. And as you mentioned, it can happen to anyone, so it is really important that we provide education on look at what we need to be able to do to provide for disabled people around the world so that people are aware of “Wow, that could be me, and I need to be prepared, because I need to be able to take care of my child or whoever it is in my life.” And it's important that people start unlearning their ableist biases and attitudes that they have before they ever even have an experience with it, as they very well could, and it would be awful if they have an ableist mindset and then something ends up happening to them or their family member.

 

Hana:

Right, and I think honestly that it all comes down to not being selfish. I think people nowadays and society and whatever — we are living selfish, selfish lifestyles. It is natural for people to be selfish, but that's why we should learn to not be, and that's why we need to kind of get out of our heads in a sense to only see ourselves and look around a little bit. It's not just about you and your comfort and people saying like, “Oh, I don't mind. This doesn't affect me.” Oh, but it affects someone else. Think about it.  

 

Sarah Todd:

Right, just that dismissive attitude is not a good thing to have, because it might not affect you right now, but it very well could one day. And even if it's not right now and even if it doesn't one day, you should still just have empathy for other people. 

 

Hana:

Yeah, and even I think it helps — well, at least that's what I heard.  I don't have children myself. But from what I have heard, it helps you see how selfish you actually are when you have children. Because all of a sudden, you have to take care of this human, and they're completely completely — how do you say it? Not addicted to you, but they can't live without you. You have to give them everything, and you realize how selfish you are. We have to realize how selfish we are and how even though it might not seem bad — obviously you want to do the best for yourself. Obviously you want to get educated. You want to have a good career. You want to enjoy life. Obviously there's nothing wrong with that, but you have to always be open to the idea of something going absolutely differently than you have planned — especially with people around you. You might not be able to affect it, but it will affect you, and you have to know that you will be able to kind of maybe drop your plans, drop your dreams, drop your comfort. And you will take care of the people around you. You will take care of your child. You will take care of your parent. You will take care of your spouse. Whatever it is. And I personally — I'm not perfect at this. I am a selfish person as everybody else is. But maybe I am a little more aware of it and of how my selfishness can affect other people, and vice versa, how me not being selfish can positively affect other people. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right. I think you definitely are more aware of that, because we're having this conversation right now, so you definitely are more aware of it. And I think your experiences with your sister Eliska have definitely influenced that. And it is so true that a lot of our problems in society are based on selfishness, and people really should try to be more empathetic. And it is difficult to understand where other people are coming from sometimes, because we only know our own lived experiences. But if we just try to think about what their life experiences might be like and how we can help, then our world would just be a much better place. 

 

Hana:

And maybe what I would like to say — maybe even for people who maybe feel bad that they don't really understand other people's experiences. That's okay. It's understandable. You only know your own and maybe another one because you have a friend or whatever. But be open to learning. Educate yourself. We have the internet, a great great tool that you can just Google things. You can find videos and movies, documentaries, articles, whatever, and you can learn about other people's experiences and realize that your own experience is only only a tiny, tiny, little piece of this giant, giant picture. Be open to learning. And don't stop with your own experiences and be like, “This is how it is and everybody else is like that, too.” 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right, because every person has their own experiences. And like you said, it's totally understandable that we don't completely understand their experiences, because we can't, because we're not them. But if we ask questions if they're open to that, or if we try to educate ourselves through all those resources online that you mentioned or through talking to other people, through listening to podcasts, and watching movies and documentaries — we just have so many resources at our disposal that we can learn so much, and we should all be so thankful for that, because it's amazing the amount of information we have that can help us learn things. 

 

Hana:

Right, right. And I understand that sometimes you see something that you don't know, and you're scared. I understand it. But don't stop there. Just try and get rid of the fear. Try to find out why you are scared, and try to find out what you can do to get rid of that and to change your mindset about things. 

 

Sarah Todd:

So, you've mentioned that your mom got to travel to Miami for vacation, and I know you've been to the U.S. a few times. And I'm super curious about this. I love talking about accessibility. So I'm wondering if you've noticed any similarities and differences in terms of accessibility and attitudes towards the disability community in the Czech Republic versus the U.S., and do you ever travel with Eliska? Does she come with you sometimes? Or how would the travel experience be with your sister? 

 

Hana:

The differences between the U.S. and the Czech Republic... I have not traveled a lot across the United States. I always traveled somewhere, and I was there, so I have not seen that much of the states, actually. I would say — and now this is just my point of view. It might not be that way, because my experience there is limited. But I would say it is probably a little more accessible. At least it feels like that to me. It feels that you would be able to get to more places with a wheelchair. I was in Texas, and you don't really have tall buildings in Texas that much — or at least in the places that I was. And so it seemed that it would be more accessible. And also, everything is kind of bigger. Doors are bigger, places are bigger, aisles in stores are giant. So it would seem to me that it would be more accessible. I think what is maybe easier in Czech — and again my view is limited, because I don't have the exact knowledge of how the how the system works in the states. It might be easier here to get the state to pay for some of your expenses that come with maybe having a disability, like medical stuff and equipment, wheelchairs. They will give you money that you can spend on a car if you need a car that is bigger. We travel quite a lot, I would say. We're pretty adventurous. And Eliska — she is amazing. She is very patient. She can endure quite a lot. We traveled to Jamaica, but she was still easily carried around, so we didn't even need a wheelchair. We didn't need any assistance. And since then, we have not traveled by multiple airplanes where you have layovers and stuff. So the only time we traveled with her on an airplane with a wheelchair was a couple years ago when we went to London, and it was hard for her. It was really hard for her. She was tired, obviously, even though it wasn't a long trip. And she had a seizure at the end of the travel, and we don't know if it was because of the travel, because she was tired or not, because she does get seizures sometimes out of the blue. So we didn't know, but we definitely are more careful. And since then, we have not traveled by an airplane with her, but we travel a lot with our car. We have a big car, and we do road trips and so I think two or three years ago, we did a giant road trip all over France and Spain and Europe so we would drive the whole day. And she's absolutely fine with that. She's absolutely fine. Sometimes she will yell a lot. That's her way of entertaining herself. But we're all used to it, and it's fine. We can feed her while we're on the way, we can do all of that. And she's fine with it, yeah. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Wow, yeah, so it sounds like the road trips are much easier than flying, as I would expect. 

 

Hana:

Definitely. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Flying's difficult, and airplanes are not accessible at all. Also, with regards to the healthcare in the U.S. versus the Czech Republic, it's interesting to hear about the differences, because I know here, it was so frustrating, because when I first became disabled, there was a therapy bike for my arms that was pretty new back then, and people are still using it today. And so 11 years ago, there wasn't really research showing that it helped. And now there's more research with that. But in the beginning, there wasn't enough research, so insurance didn't pay for this bike, and my parents spent so much money on it, because my mom felt like she had to do everything she could or else she would feel guilty. And so it's frustrating that there are treatments and items available, but they're often super expensive. And with regards to the car, I know a lot of people who need a wheelchair accessible van have to raise a ton of money to get one, because it's so hard to get them. And so it's just so difficult to get the healthcare we need and items we need sometimes. And I don't really know the solution to that, but it's very difficult. 

 

Hana:

Right, yeah. It is true that it's probably more available here, but we are also a smaller country. Maybe that also plays a part. But there are things that the insurance doesn't pay for. We also had a thing — it was kind of like a bike kind of machine that we needed for Eliska. They had it in the spa place or whatever it was, so we always used it there. But it would be better to have one at home, because we're there one month a year. And it was very expensive. And I remember I was probably like nine, and I really wanted to make all the money to buy this thing, but I didn't realize how much money it was. So obviously, I was never able to make all the money, but I really tried. I did try. And we did buy it at the end. We were able to save up enough money, so we have it now. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That's so cute. I love that you were trying to help out when you were so little. That's so interesting. 

 

Hana:

But that was just my mindset. Like, “She needs it. We're gonna get it.” 

 

Sarah Todd:

And also, you mentioned how Eliska communicates. I'm curious if she has any devices that help her communicate, or is that not something that she's interested in using? Or would it not be very helpful? Or is that not available in the Czech Republic?  

 

Hana:

It is hard because of the mental disability part. We did try a lot of things. We tried some sign language. She had pictures that she would take and grab, and it would mean a certain thing. And we tried to teach her that. And it always worked for some time, but at the end, she just developed her own things. So she has a couple things that she does when she needs something. She'll grab your hand and point it to her mouth to show you that she's hungry, or she does make a certain sound that also indicates that she's hungry or that she's thirsty. So a couple things like that. Mostly it's just you knowing — I don't know how to explain it — but sometimes, you just know what she wants. Sometimes you don't. And you have to figure it out a little bit, but you usually learn. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That's so interesting. That's a really clever way for her to communicate, as well. Like, putting your hand on her mouth and all of that. That's so interesting. So I know this will probably be a difficult question for you to answer, but what do you think the most positive aspect of being Eliska’s sibling is? 

 

Hana:

There's definitely not one. There's more. And I'll try to be brief. I mentioned some of them already, and the first one is probably being a little more empathetic. I think it also helped me. Honestly, it helped me to be able to take care of kids, because I am able to take care of an adult, so I am totally comfortable with kids, like with babies and kids. And I know that also comes with having a lot of siblings, but it definitely also comes with having this — normal people won't have to change and change diapers and feed and take care of  an adult person. And I think it also helped me to understand that communication doesn't just have to be words. You can still communicate. You can still have a relationship. You can still have a valuable connection with a person.

 

Sarah Todd:

Right. It's not all words. We communicate so much with our bodies. I think most of our communication is with our bodies. 

 

Hana:

Right. 

 

Sarah Todd:

I love that you pointed that out. I think that's really sweet and really special. And that's actually not even something I would have thought of. I don't really know what I was expecting you to say, but I hadn't thought about the communication being one thing. I really love that. 

 

Hana:

Yeah, and there's definitely more, but yeah. 

 

Sarah Todd:

That's so sweet. I love that so much. It sounds like you have such a great relationship with Eliska. 

 

Hana:

I'm also really, really grateful for our family, and I think it also gives us another thing that we kind of bond over. It's kind of like something nobody else gets and understands but, we get it. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right, because it's your lived experience, and it's special.

 

Hana:

Exactly. And it's our Eliska. She's a part of our family. Our family wouldn't be what we are if we didn't have her. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Right. I love that so much. So, you've certainly taught me so much about the sibling perspective. I loved hearing your insight, so thank you so much, Hana, for being on my podcast. This was a great conversation. I loved it so much. 

 

Hana:

It was a great conversation. It was a great experience for me. I've never been interviewed. I always do the interviews. 

 

Sarah Todd:

Your first interview! That's awesome! 

 

Sarah Todd:

Thank you so much for tuning in to this week's episode of Positively Opposite! If you'd like to connect with me, visit my website, sarahtoddhammer.com. Transcripts of each episode will be available there. Also be sure to follow the Positively Opposite Instagram for all the latest updates and special content regarding the podcast! I hope you'll join me and another amazing guest at the next episode!

 

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