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Opening doors, with kindness
Gil’s life as she used to know it came to a halt on the A2 just over two years ago, when the jeep she was driving to Aljustrel - as a favour to a friend - blew a tyre. She has no recollection of the accident, although she was apparently conscious when rescue workers picked her up off the road and airlifted her to hospital.
After a month in deep coma and several operations, Gil, 49, woke to discover she would never walk again. A tetraplegic, her spinal injury is such that she has only limited use of her hands, very little strength in her arms and difficulties breathing.
For various reasons, Gil has ended up living on her own on the 4th floor of a block of flats in Portimão. The traumas of the last two years are finally settling, and she’s coming to terms with her “new life”, as she calls it. With all the difficulties Gil faces 24 hours a day, the fact that she doesn’t have the strength to turn the lock on her door and leave the flat on her own did not weigh on her too heavily when she first moved in. Three months down the line and full of dreams for a future, she began longing to claim back some autonomy.
She learnt of a special automatic door opening device that would change her life, but she couldn’t afford it. Like so many people whose lives are ripped apart by injury, Gil receives a tiny pension – and most of it goes on care and medication.
Enter Small Acts of Kindness: with a special dinner cooked by various members and served to 25 guests, the group managed to raise not only all the money Gil needs to buy her door opening device, but quite a bit extra, to help her with a wish list.
“I cannot wait to get out of this flat!” Gil told us. “I have this dream that I can find something to do that will bring me back in contact with people. I am a people person. I need to be in touch with people”.
A former riding school instructor, Gil’s last job was setting up and running a dental practice in Lagoa.
“I would love to use my skills again – and once I can get out of that door, who knows what will come!”
Small Acts of Kindness coordinator Ann Lancaster told us: “the need will come to us, of that I have no doubt. There are so many people out there that need help. Now is the time for those of us who can to start giving”.