Nathan Tessman is the rap artist known as MC Wheels. He also suffers from a rare condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy with Respiratory Distress [SMARD] and has always dreamed about living independently in his own home. This is how he did it. 

Through my life I have encountered some pretty difficult challenges, whether it would be dealing with my disability, venturing into new territory with hip hop music, or joining my first ever team sport. But something I always wanted to do, something I thought was impossible, was to move out of home and be independent.

I first threw the idea at my mum when I was 20 years old. I knew I wasn’t ready at that point, but it was something that I was striving to do. So when I turned 23, I decided it was time to follow this road. It was going to be a big challenge, a new experience, but I was feeling I could handle it.

What adaptations did I need?

We had to design the house to make it as accessible as possible, so I could be as independent as possible, because we were struggling to get the suitable amount of care that I needed. I was already a pretty mobile and independent person and I was sure I could take care of myself the majority of the days with small amount of care coming in, with a few adaptations.

We had to get sliding doors, electric fans and windows, as well as ripping the doors off all the kitchen cabinets to make it easier for me. One of the crucial elements of my house was also to make a toilet that I can use. If we weren’t able to achieve this goal, my dream of living independently was shattered. We managed to organise to get an in-ground toilet built in my bathroom. And from that point on, it’s been amazing.

Once everything was sorted and I was able to live in my house, the next big step came – moving out. I felt excited, a new zest for life, a buzz, all the feelings that you could ever imagine. The first night was just unbelievable. I will never be able to recapture the feeling that I had.

What was the biggest challenge?

But as they say, what goes up must come down. I hit the ground hard the next day, with reality sinking in. I felt this overwhelming sensation of loneliness and a fair few nights of just balling my eyes out, questioning whether I had made the right decision.

I told my mum that I wasn’t gonna be able to live here. I found it too hard and taxing on my mental state. But I didn’t want to let anybody down because of how much work was put into the house. I said to myself, if I can make it to the next Thursday, that was one full week.

And I did it. Sure, it was a struggle, but I powered through. I then employed the same technique, thinking that all I needed to do was get to the following Thursday. That’d be two weeks. And I did. Eventually the weeks started to roll past, with friends and family members coming over to help me in this new environment.

What does it mean to me?

The freedom that I have at the moment is just amazing. Doing tasks that I’ve previously had so much help with in my life. To be able to do it all by myself is something I always dreamed of. It’s made me realise I was right to bite the bullet. We all need to go out, live our lives and achieve the things that we want to do the most.

Take yourself out of the comfort zone. It’s been the best decision that I’ve made in my entire life. And it’s forged me into becoming a much stronger person.

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