Some photos taken during the Wings for Life World Run are so compelling that they go around the world. Like this one. Read on for the backstory of a remarkable woman who has been a beacon of hope for people with spinal cord injury in her native Croatia. It’s a great reminder of why we run and why the Wings for Life World Run means so much to so many.
The woman in this Wings for Life World Run photo is Manda Knežević. As a young girl, Manda suffered from a severe form of scoliosis, so she had to undergo surgery at the tender age of 16.
“When I woke up from anaesthesia, I saw many people standing around me. The doctors asked me to move my legs, but I couldn’t,” Manda remembers. What exactly went wrong remains unclear to this day.
During her rehabilitation she encountered many people who yielded to despair due to their spinal cord injuries. “I was still young, but I decided for myself to lead a good and positive life,” the now 66-year-old recalls.
Manda remains paralysed from the chest downwards. She is a trained office clerk and went on to launch the Croatian Association for Paraplegics and Tetraplegics.
“I thought it important to inform people with spinal cord injuries and to help them find their way in their new lives.” Manda and her team often visit patients directly after their accident. “Everything to do with spinal cord injuries is incredibly personal: bladder, bowel, and sexuality. These are topics that become huge problems.”
Manda has been dependent on her wheelchair for 50 years. However, she does not need help in everyday life for the most part. “I wish to remain independent. My hope for all those who are similarly affected is that they can integrate well into society… and that a cure will be found soon.”
Manda takes part in the Wings for Life World Run every year, to donate to spinal cord research and to make sure that people with spinal cord injuries are not forgotten. “I’ve lived with this injury for so long that I don’t even know what it feels like to touch the floor with my feet. But when I sleep, I still dream of walking. And that’s beautiful.”