Disability what? Toni-Ann Davis conquers challenges and soars to success
Peeling an orange or opening a tin with a cutter is what an average teen does naturally, but for Toni-Ann Davis, these were some of the challenges she encountered as someone born with mild cerebral palsy, with right hemiparalysis – a weakening of the muscles on the right side of the body.
She spent countless days and nights at the hospital with her parents, and having seizures were almost the norm for her. But that did not stop her achieving qualification up to the master’s level in an area that is keen on helping others, and she is currently studying in the same field at the doctoral level.
“I am an associate clinical psychologist currently working with the North East Regional Health Authority, in particular the St Ann Health Department. My job sees me offering psychological services such as psychotherapy, psychological assessments, and the conducting of mental health-related promotions in both governmental and non-governmental agencies and institutions. My assignments also see me working with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Department, primarily the Child Guidance Clinic in St Ann and also the Adult Mental Services, where I also offer psychotherapy services.”
Davis, who says that she has the best time working for and with the most awesome people, is happy that she can touch the lives of others, doing what she is passionate about.
“I am happy and truly excited to say that I love working with children and adolescents. One of the reasons I went into psychology was because I wanted to better understand individuals and be a friend where they didn’t necessarily feel they had one.”
She continued “I grew up as an only child, not necessarily because my parents wanted that, but primarily because I used to get ill with seizures quite often from the age of two years, and so many of my days, especially my parents’ days, were spent in the hospital. Over the years, this has greatly limited my ability to take part in various physical activities and at times saw me going a little slower in school in many areas than others. When I did certain things, my mom would watch on, more in fright than anything, fearing that I would injure myself, only to be told by my dad, ‘Nuh worry. A fi mi pickney’.”
The 31-year-old said she couldn’t have been where she is today had it not been for the unconditional love of her parents and God.
“I believe I overcame those challenges because I had – and still have – good, God-fearing and supportive parents who instilled courage in me, and believed that there was nothing that I cannot achieve if I put my mind, heart, and soul into it. Another reason I believe I am overcoming those challenges is because I work with a ministry and health department that is disability friendly to its staff and believes that once you have the mental capacity, the love for what you do and are willing to learn from others, you can achieve.”
Life automatically becomes harder when one is physically challenged, but Davis is not a believer in giving up, and so the more she achieved was the more she wanted to show the naysayers that it could be done.
“Despite several surgeries to correct the deformities in my right leg, I must say that I graduated from high school, in a wheelchair, and completed Northern Caribbean University, where I attained my bachelor of science degree in psychology, while on crutches, trying to heal from various corrective surgeries. I persevered and continued my studies with Walden University, where I gained a master of science degree in clinical psychology. After working for around three years, I decided recently to take up studying at the doctoral level.”
Controlling her narrative and pushing past the odds to achieve everything she sets out to do, even getting her driver’s license, Davis said she believes that once she wants it and works hard, it will come to realisation.
“In the next few years, I see myself completing my doctoral studies, opening a private practice, owning my own home, and working in a travelling officer position, and being a consultant to the United Nations. Currently, my job sees me working as a travelling officer, and though sometimes the journeys to various clinics, schools, and other organisations are quite tedious, I take in the sights around and get to know places.”
With one of the sweetest personalities you will ever come across, Davis says she has never been a quitter and she doesn’t plan on being one any time soon.
“What keeps me motivated is that inner vibe or voice that says, ‘Toni you can do it’, the will to succeed, and the support of family, colleagues, and a few good friends. Additionally, going to the gym and expending all the stress through exercise and knowing that my God never gives me more than I can bear and that I have a purpose. You have a purpose. We all have a purpose and there nothing we can’t do if we put our mind to it and place God first,” she ended.