Turn on a TV today, and the odds are high that the person staring back at you will be young, perfectly coiffed, superhumanly beautiful. You will almost never see the other side of humanity—the nearly 25 percent of us who live with disabilities.
Tegan Morris wants to change that. Her dream is to travel to LA and meet her idol Ellen DeGeneres.
Tegan was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy when she was just a baby. Her parents noticed that something was wrong when she wasn’t meeting important milestones like lifting her head. After multiple tests and a couple of months of being treated for a condition she didn’t have, Tegan was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy is a disease that weakens the muscles that help your body to move. Muscles weaken gradually over time, so a child who once might have walked may see their final years on this Earth in a wheelchair. There is no cure for Muscular Dystrophy, and Tegan isn’t likely to live much longer than her 30th birthday.
It would be easy to put on some cheesy music at this point and tell you all that Tegan is deserving of meeting a superstar like Ellen DeGeneres because of the hard road she has had to wheel. To dwell on a woman who should be in her prime having to have caregivers to turn her over at night, to help her dress, to eat. To touch on the shrinking time ahead that Tegan has to wheel this Earth.
But I don’t want to write that story. What comes across most strongly when you talk to Tegan is how very strong she is. She is eloquent, a beautiful writer, and it is clear how much her friends and family adore her. Today, Tegan is a young woman of 26. She uses a motorised wheelchair to get around, has a machine to help her breathe at night, and she has round-the-clock care. Things that most of us can do with little thought are difficult or impossible for Tegan, and yet she is fearless in facing down her challenges.
The type of Muscular Dystrophy that Tegan has (Autosomal Recessive Congenital) manifests from birth, so Tegan has never walked. That hasn’t stopped her going places though—Tegan got her first wheelchair at 18 months. Her Nana likes to brag that even as a baby, she could drive and reverse better than most adults.
Tegan is a woman who is fiercely independent, but who also gratefully acknowledges that she is “interdependent”—she relies on a wide support network to help her live the life the way she wants. Tegan grew up in a small New Zealand town, with her parents acting as her primary caregivers. When Tegan was in her final year of high school, she decided that she wanted to go to university—and she wanted to do it on her own.
Tegan had never even had a sleepover before, but her parents saw that she was determined to go out into the world on her own and supported her decision. Her mother spent months on the phone with disability services, meeting dead-end after dead-end, until finally she spoke to one person who said that if Tegan wanted to live independently, then she could. Tegan wrote up a schedule for caregivers and got a flat by herself, and Tegan graduated from the University of Waikato with an A average for her Bachelor of Social Sciences.
Tegan’s dream is to encourage others to follow their ambitions, and to support people to realize their potential, as people in Tegan’s support network have supported her to reach her dreams. She wants to give hope to people living with disabilities that they too can make their dreams happen. That’s why her latest goal is to meet Ellen DeGeneres.
Can you imagine how incredibly empowering it would be for little girls and boys facing a lifetime of disabilities, to see someone who looks like them laughing and joking with someone like Ellen DeGeneres?
Tegan knows that it won’t be easy to meet her idol Ellen DeGeneres. She lives in New Zealand—which is about as south as you can get before hitting Antarctica. As she needs 24-hour care, she needs three caregivers to accompany her on her quest. And as Tegan sleeps with breathing equipment, she and a companion need to sit in business class—twice the cost of economy tickets.
This isn’t stopping Tegan though. She has entered local contests for Ellen’s biggest fan, and has recently sent “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” a scrapbook showing her love for Ellen and her show. Her friends have helped her to create a video about her life and her wish to be on the show, and she is currently saving for a trip to LA.
Tegan knows that this is a long shot—”The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is inundated with people wanting to be a guest, and she is just one person, on the other side of the world. But meeting Ellen would mean so much more than fulfilling one woman’s dream—it would mean everything to the people in the world who find it hard to do the simple tasks that so many of us take for granted.
My request for you, dear readers, is to help Tegan get to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” If enough people show their support for Tegan’s quest, maybe—just maybe—we can help get her there.
How you can help Tegan on her quest to meet Ellen:
- Share this page on your social networks, and help us start a social media “Mexican Wave”
- Like Tegan’s page on Facebook
- If you’re fancy and have links to the media or “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” feel free to pass this their way!