Riki Leach or Riki Hotwheels, as the people have come to know her, is a qualified counsellor, an internationally published photography model, an award winning digital artist and a writer with a physical disability. She told us her story about being disabled and about how far you can get if you don’t give up. She is an example for many of us… always ready to smile at life!
DM: You were very young when your life changed, do you remember that episode when you had that asthma attack?
Riki Hotwheels: My physical challenges in life began at a young age with a traumatic turn of events. I was a chronic asthmatic and at the age of nine years old in August 1991 in the evening I had a severe Asthma Attack which led to my brain being deprived of oxygen, stopping my heart and causing my acquired brain injury. My brain damage has left me with a physical disability and needing to use my wheelchair to get from A to B. I have Parkinson’s symptoms from the hypoxic episode and I take daily medication to assist my limbs and brain to function.
DM: How was this change for you and your family?
Riki Hotwheels: For my family, it was extremely hard to see their able bodied child go through such an ordeal but they have said. It’s definitely made me stronger and who I am the person today; a little warrior with strength. A quote from my best friend who was there through it with me. “I didn’t love you any less after it all, if anything I loved you more because I knew I nearly lost you” – Cassie.
DM: Did you feel marginalized at school because of your handicap?
Riki Hotwheels: I myself have memories of the incident, not so much of the actual night but the aftermath of it. Some of these memories I prefer only to share with people close to me because it was quite traumatic. One particular memory I will share which I can now smile at is The Simpsons room. Just after I was released from I.C.U after a number of days I was admitted to the kids’ ward. There they had a play room and because I was on so much medication to keep my heart and brain going I was having hallucinations. The children’s play room was pink but to me I was seeing Bart Simpsons painted all over the walls. I was quite confused and saddened when the medication wore off and I finally saw how the room really was. To this day I can still see The Simpsons art clear as day. After the brain injury I can’t say I was huge fan of school, I was bullied for being different and the school years were exceptionally hard.
DM: How did you get to the fashion world and what does it means for you?
Riki Hotwheels: My photography modelling; I have always been told I’m photogenic even as a child and I have loved photography for my whole life. In 2007 after a push from a friend, I jumped into it. It’s a true passion. I have taught myself Photoshop skills leading me to win numerous of awards. If you have an enthusiasm, a love for something; pursue it.
DM: You are an artist too, can you tell me more about this passion you have?
Riki Hotwheels: Every opportunity I have I do something creative whether it’s Photoshop, paint, draw or make mandala art. I have always been an extremely visual artistic soul. I’m also a qualified counsellor, my love for wanting to assist others took me on a journey to get my counselling degree.
DM: If you could change your life, who would you like to be?
Riki Hotwheels: I wouldn’t change anything about my life, everything I have done has taught me something. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else, I’m just me and I’m happy with who I am. My life has been an absolute rollercoaster of events but from everything I have gained wisdom, strength and knowledge.
Click here for her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RikiHotwheelsModel/