Sherwood Park woman represent Canada at Miss Wheelchair World

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A Sherwood Park woman says representing Canada at Miss Wheelchair World in Tijuana, Mexico was “the most amazing experience.”

Melissa Exton spent more than a week in Tijuana sightseeing, getting dressed up and talking with other like-minded women who use wheelchairs.

“What we did was share our story. We shared what our struggles were on a daily basis,” she told CTV News Edmonton from her Sherwood Park acreage.

LIFE-CHANGING PAIN

Exton started using a wheelchair about 10 years ago after a surgical procedure to treat chronic migraines went wrong.

She says the migraines improved but she was left with debilitating pain when standing or walking.

“It did change my life a lot. I can’t work anymore,” she said. “I was a nurse and I loved nursing and caring for people so that was a big loss in my life.”

She started volunteering regularly with kids and became interested in events supporting people in wheelchairs.

In 2018, she participated in Miss Wheelchair Canada and about a year ago learned she was chosen to represent Canada at Miss Wheelchair World.

“The organization that puts on the pageant, their mission statement is that everybody is beautiful,” she said.

“Even if one person takes inspiration or gets a little bit of hope that would be amazing.”

MISS KINDNESS

Exton believes she was picked as ‘Miss Kindness’ because she befriended several contestants who were struggling at the event including one with a cumbersome wheelchair.

“The contestant from Guatemala has this old, heavy, beaten down wheelchair that broke my heart to see so I committed to raising money to buy her a new wheelchair,” she said.

Exton returned home a few weeks ago but she is confident she has created lifelong friendships.

“It’s really cool because there are all these people from around the world friend requesting me on Instagram or Facebook and just wanting to chat,” she said.

“The disabled are a really a tight-knit community and we always want to help each other so I love that.”

THE FUTURE

She hopes the trip will lead to similar opportunities in the future and will give her a larger platform to discuss accessibility issues.

“For healthcare we are trying to get nurses and doctors more educated about what it’s like to live with a wheelchair because there’s still a lack of education about that,” she said.

“Just because Canada is bright and shiny and amazing it doesn’t mean there aren’t things I am fighting for.”

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