DUBAI: Although a genetic disease that made her wheelchair-bound for around two decades tends to deteriorate every year, Raisa Al Falasi smilingly says, “Life is still beautiful”.
“I have my dreams. I want to do well in Paralympics and in my job,” Al Falasi who works as an executive assistant at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, Prime Minister’s Office, tells WAM.
When she felt an uneasiness in walking during her third year of bachelor’s degree in geology at UAE University at the age of 19, she never imagined that she would not be able to walk after two years.
“It was in 1999 and as there was no treatment in the UAE, I went to Germany but there was no relief,” says Al Falasi about her medical condition, muscular dystrophy, which is one of a group of genetic diseases characterised by progressive weakness and degeneration of the muscles that control movement.
She started falling down while walking and since 2001 onwards, a wheelchair became her constant companion. Al Falasi had to discontinue her geology degree course for being unable to do mandatory field works.
“My family has always been very supportive. Still I did not want to wait for others to help me. I wanted to be strong,” recollects Al Falasi about her initial reaction to the fact that medical treatment would not come to her rescue.
“I determined to improve myself and find a job to be self-dependent.”
She took courses in secretarial practice, computer skills and English language and got a job as a receptionist at Dubai Health Authority, DHA, in 2006.
Moving on a wheelchair, she started enjoying work and life. “Since then I live like any other normal human being.”
She adds, “Perhaps I can move faster on this electronic wheelchair than others [who walk normal].”
That positive attitude and hard work helped her achieve many appreciation certificates and complete important training programmes during her 12-year long job with DHA. It also made her climb the career ladder to a senior administrative officer.
With her reputation of excellence in work, she got a better opportunity at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future in December, 2018. As an executive assistant, she is part of the team taking care of the administrative works of Government Accelerators, which is a platform for cross-sectoral government teams to address challenges and achieve ambitious goals.
The job is challenging with many responsibilities, but she describes them as “opportunities.”
She smiles when she happens to hear people complaining about their lives. “They don’t remember that they are living in one of the safest countries in the world. You have a safe and comfortable life here.”
Even for people with physical or intellectual challenges, she believes, this is the best place to live. “The suggestion of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to call them as ‘People of Determination’ itself is quite inspiring.”
The support from her colleagues inspires Raisa Al Falasi to excel in work and Paralympics, in which she has been actively participating since 2014.
A champion in Boccia - a Paralympic sport similar to bowls - in several international events, she says her office has always been celebrating her success.
That encourages her to look forward to further achievements in Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, adding that such dreams are alive, despite the discomforts of physical challenges.
“Every year this condition gets worse. Muscles are slowly degrading. I can feel it. Every muscle in the body gets affected.”
Immediately she adds, “At least my mind is working perfectly. And I am blessed to have this wheelchair to move around.”
About her capability to smile despite the challenges, she says, “At the end, we know what happens to all human beings...”
“Life is not complete unless I do my part. I am just doing it. I have my family and friends to support me.”
Al Falasi has the support of a caretaker for the past 10 years. “She has become my best friend.”
Her brother suffers from the same condition, although he can move around without a wheelchair.
“I listen to inspirational speeches and read the Holy Quran,” she says about her sources of inspiration in life. “Allah has given me this life. He knows better.”