Zuly Sanguinowas born without arms and legs because of a rare genetic condition called Tetra-amelia syndrome. A boy with this condition will have a hard enough time to get through life, so imagine if a girl like Zuly has it. She was hit by bullies and even raped when she was a teenager. It wasn’t surprising that at 15 years old, she contemplated committing suicide. But as difficult as things are for her, Zuly fought back and turned her life around.
“I don’t have any arms or legs, but I won’t let that hold me back,” said Zuly, a native of Bogota, Colombia.
“Growing up was hard and I was bullied at school. I was called an alien and it really hurt me. I went through some dark times and even contemplated suicide.”
“But my friends and family pulled me through and now I give motivational talks at businesses, prisons and schools.”
“I speak to children who are bullied, or have disabilities, to show them having physical or mental limitations doesn’t have to hold you back.”
“I want to show people you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”
She has three brothers and two sisters, but she’s the only one among her siblings to suffer this condition.
Because she was bullied at school, she had to change transfer when she was six years old. She also had to deal with living without a father, who committed suicide when she was just two years old.
“I started to realise I was different to other children aged six. Suddenly I noticed they could run and I couldn’t.”
“I asked Mum why I was different. She told me I was no more different than anybody else and my disability didn’t have to hold me back.”
“Children called me alien and hit me, sometimes they’d take my snacks. It was horrible.”
“I’d go to sleep at night wishing I could just wake up and be like everyone else.”
“I felt ostracized at school and didn’t have any friends. I thought there was no hope for me. Mum tried to keep my spirits up but I felt so low.”
“I climbed up to the fourth floor of our building and was going to jump. Thankfully, mum came and found me just before I did.”
“She was so upset things had got so bad. She hugged me and told me everything would be alright.”
“She told me I would go on to shine and show other people you can live a normal, happy life with a disability.”
Zuly’s mother, Guillermina, is doing all she can to make sure that her daughter will live a normal life as possible despite her disability. Guillermina works as an assistant and had to work twice as hard to support her family especially since her husband committed suicide.
“At first people would carry me everywhere or I’d roll, but eventually I managed to stand up on my own and tried to walk by propping myself up with my stumps.” Zuly said.
“Mum taught me to do basic things like making the bed, brushing my teeth and changing clothes using my mouth and stumps to grip things.”
“She wanted me to do everything an able-bodied person can.”
After hitting rock bottom when she was 15, Zuly decided to rebuild her life with the help of her mother. Later on, she went to art college and would give talks to the community. Now, she’s doing the rounds of TV and radio appearances.
“I realized I’d spent too long letting my disability get me down and I had so much to live for.”
“Gradually, with mum’s support, I began to feel more positive and got involved with a local church, where the pastor asked me if I would like to join him on community visits as an inspirational speaker.”
“My first talk was speaking to 400 college students and parents about bullying in schools.”
“I was really nervous so Mum came with me for support. But half-way through I began to cry because it was so painful reliving what I’ve been through.”
“But everyone started clapping and it gave me the strength to keep going.”
“Afterwards I felt great. Knowing I’d turned my bad experiences into something good and was helping people was so rewarding.”
“It gives me so much happiness to know I’m helping people. One boy was about to take his own life with a gun when he saw a TV show I was on.”
“He realized he had to be brave and decided not to take his life. He wrote to me and we’re now really good friends. I get letters from lots of people who say I’ve helped them through difficult situations.”