Rhea Talwar is a young person supported by our Children’s Complex Care team. She was born with a genetic disorder causing an underdeveloped brain. As a result, Rhea has a variety of complex care needs.
Aged 18, Rhea has cerebral palsy, global development delay, scoliosis and severe epilepsy. She is blind, non-verbal and has mobility issues, meaning she requires 2:1 support from her Children’s Complex Care healthcare assistants 24/7.
Despite her life-limiting condition and the healthcare challenges Rhea faces, she has always refused to let them stop her from achieving her goals. And as she works her way through a very ambitious bucket list, she continues to show everyone what a remarkable young lady she is.
Five of Rhea’s amazing achievements
With the help of her mum, Purabi, and around 20 members of staff from our Children’s Complex Care team, now dubbed Team Rhea, she’s managed to tick off some pretty incredible things from her extensive list.
1. Going to Florida
Rhea had been to Florida as a child, but it was her dream to travel there when she was a bit older so she could visit Disneyland. She was quite poorly before they were due to go though, and flying for such a long time did not seem possible.
“The planning that goes into taking a child abroad is intense, even more so when they have such a high level of complex health needs. But it’s every child’s wish to go to Disneyland and I wanted the same for Rhea,” said Purabi.
In typical Rhea fashion, she wouldn’t be beaten! So, with the help of a charity and two healthcare assistants, she was able to realise her dream alongside her mum and grandad in December 2011.
They had an incredible time visiting the theme parks and enjoying the sunshine, but the highlight for Rhea was meeting Mickey and Minnie Mouse!
2. Punting in Cambridge
Punting is an activity where you travel the waterways in a narrow, flat-bottomed boat. This is something Rhea and her family have wanted to do alone for some time.
We knew this family activity might be difficult due to Rhea’s mobility issues, but we absolutely had to make it happen. This involved a lot of research and behind the scenes work to help Purabi arrange the logistics of the day.
Together we ensured that transportation, medication and safety risks were all taken into consideration in advance. This meant Purabi could focus on being in the moment with Rhea and meant another big tick off the bucket list!
“We tried to do these sorts of activities on our own as a family before and it was always so incredibly stressful. I could never really enjoy myself,” says Purabi.
“Whereas now, I enjoy the time we spend with Rhea when we go out because I’ve got the help of amazing healthcare assistants who are there to support us.”
3. Growing chilli plants
When the COVID-19 pandemic began and lockdown was implemented, Rhea’s original bucket list was forced to be put on hold. COVID-19 poses a real threat to Rhea as she is in respiratory failure, so catching the disease could be fatal. This meant Rhea needed to shield and couldn’t leave the house.
Undeterred, Rhea got creative. She adapted her bucket list to include things she could complete in the flat she shares with her mum and grandad.
One of the things Rhea decided she wanted to do was to grow her own chilli plants on the balcony.
She got a chilli, and with the help of her mum, spent time removing the seeds so she could plant them and see what would happen.
Purabi was amazed at how well it had worked, commenting, “After a little while, Rhea soon had around 20 chilli plants! And it became a real team effort! The healthcare assistants helped Rhea to water them every day and got as excited as us while they grew.”
In return, Rhea gave each of her healthcare assistants a chilli plant to take home and enjoy!
4. Building a business
During the pandemic, Rhea was extremely poorly. Her mum was told three times by consultants that Rhea had only 24 hours to live. But every time it looked like she might not survive, resilient Rhea did.
“She was so poorly, but needed to focus on something she enjoyed. Something that would give her hope, a sense of achievement and a real purpose in life,” said Purabi.
Rhea loves arts and crafts. So with the help of Purabi and some of her healthcare assistants, she decided to set up her own company making greetings cards.
In just a few weeks, Perfectly Imperfect Prints was born, and Rhea became a savvy businesswoman!
Her healthcare assistants sometimes help Purabi and Rhea with design ideas, but each card is made lovingly by just Rhea and Purabi. Each masterpiece is totally unique and crafted using Rhea’s fingerprints, handprints and footprints in a range of colours and shapes. They’re perfectly imperfect – just like Rhea.
This venture has taught her basic life lessons like earning, saving money and budgeting, just like other young people her age.
She has also gone one step further by trying to help others too. With each card she sells, she donates 10% to her favourite charity, Strongbones.
Rhea has big plans for her business and some exciting clients in the pipeline, so watch this space!
5. Rhea receives a WellChild award!
After a worrying year, Rhea received the wonderful news in June 2021 that she’d won a WellChild award. This was in recognition of everything she has accomplished, despite the challenges she’s faced.
“The award is so deserved. I wanted her to know how proud I am of her bravery through these tough times and that she can still experience some amazing things,” said Purabi.
When receiving her award at a special ceremony, dressed in her princess pink gown, Rhea got to tick off another big dream of hers – meeting Prince Harry, the WellChild Patron!
Purabi smiled, “Rhea has always wanted to meet a prince. We’re massive royalists, so it was a dream come true to meet Prince Harry.
He loved the print we gave him, which he has promised to put up at home!”
She also met Ed Sheeran, Amanda Holden and Anne-Marie amongst other celebrities while at the event. They all of received one of Rhea’s prints to take home with them too.
And it didn’t stop there. The event was covered by Hello magazine which featured a half-page piece on Rhea, shooting her to celebrity status as well!
Rhea is a positive person who spreads kindness wherever she goes by helping others.
In the past, she has completed a sponsored walk in her wheelchair for Prostate Cancer UK. She has been growing her hair for the last five years to make wigs for children who have lost their hair during cancer treatment.
“Rhea is the most amazing young lady. She wants to help others and refuses to be defined by her disabilities. Instead, she wants people to focus on her abilities. I want the world to know how brave, beautiful and incredible she is.”Purabi Lakhani, Rhea’s mum.
Through these acts of kindness, Rhea also shares the mantra she lives by with others. She wants everyone to know …
- It’s ok to be different. Being perfectly imperfect is beautiful!
- It’s possible to achieve anything in life. You just need to put your mind to it!
- You can fulfil your dreams, think outside of the box and find a way to make it happen.
Achieving the impossible
Her condition may be life-limiting, but it hasn’t stopped Rhea from conquering every challenge that comes her way and fulfilling all her ambitions. And through it all, we will be by her side, supporting her to achieve the seemingly impossible!
Rhea is supported by healthcare assistants from our Children’s Complex Care team. They provide support for children and young people age 0-25 with a variety of complex care needs.