In what’s perhaps the ultimate example of how looks can be deceiving and never judging a book by its cover, one girl became an international sensation when a stranger left a note on her car’s windshield, telling her that she wasn’t disabled and therefore should not have parked in a disabled only parking spot.
19-year-old hairdresser Yasmin Swift of Kent, England, was leaving a local pub after a night out with a friend. She was still euphoric at the evening she’d just had, and felt like she was walking on sunshine.
The following morning, drawing close to her car, she noticed something stuck to the windshield. Her stomach turned, as she thought she got a parking ticket of some kind. It seemed illogical, as she was parked perfectly legally. When she picked it up, she found it was something much worse than a ticket.
The note tacked onto Yasmin’s car said simply, “You are parked illegally. You are not disabled. I will inform authorities accordingly.”
Yasmin stared at the note in disbelief. She wasn’t anxious or afraid that she got caught doing something she shouldn’t have been doing – she was furious. It’s true, she was parked at a handicapped parking place. But she had a very good reason for doing so, and she wasn’t about to let that remark slide without repercussions.
Writing about the experience on Facebook, Yasmin revealed she was shocked to find the note, adding, “People are ignorant and it’s a cowardly thing to do.”
If the person who wrote the note had simply approached her, she would have been perfectly fine with explaining the situation to them, but they didn’t bother. They just wrote a note – anonymously, of course – and left it there for her to find. “Maybe if they could’ve seen what I’ve been going through over the last few months, they’d think differently,” she lamented.
Yasmin did indeed have a reason to be parking in a handicapped spot, although she seemed a perfectly normal, happy teenager. And – for the majority of her life – she was.
She graduated from Homewood School in Tenterden, her hometown, and began a job at a hair salon. She even kept fairly active, but then things took a turn for the worse. Her legs began to swell up, while her stomach, back, and eyes became puffy and sore. Little did she know, it was the start of something very, very bad.
The young woman thought she was merely suffering from allergies or something similar, and so she took some antihistamines and painkillers, but no avail. She wasn’t getting better.
One day, she was in so much pain she had to leave work in the middle of the day. Following her mother’s advice, she saw a doctor, who diagnosed her as suffering from exhaustion and told her to take some time off to recover. Following his advice, she stayed home for a bit. To her horror, her condition only deteriorated.
Despite spending some time at home, Yasmin was not getting better. Quite the contrary, in fact. In the past, she lived a healthy lifestyle, hitting the gym as many as five times a week.
Now, however, she couldn’t cross a room without struggling for air, unable to breathe. “My health was just getting worse and worse,” she remembered later. It was clear now she wasn’t suffering from mere allergies or exhaustion. Something else was behind her condition, and she had to find out what.
Yasmin naturally stopped exercising at this point, but continued losing weight regardless. She’d lost all her appetite and her complexion was ashen, to say nothing of her mental state at feeling so bad and not even knowing why.
Things weren’t much better for her mother, who had to suffer through the gut-wrenching experience of seeing her daughter wasting away into nothing without being able to help. “My mum was scared she would lose me,” she said, and for a moment, it seemed those fears were about to turn into reality.
Her hospital emergency room visits had gained such alarming regularity, that the staff at Tenterden’s hospital not only knew her, but also her family and even her friends by name.
A battery of tests was performed, and almost all came back showing nothing out of the ordinary. Yasmin was in perfectly good health… except she wasn’t. No one had answers. For a fleeting moment, Yasmin began to feel guilty, and wondered whether perhaps she was just imagining things. Was she truly just a hypochondriac?
It took her an entire year to get a diagnosis. She underwent so many tests she lost count. But now Yasmin finally knew what was wrong – she was suffering from idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare lung disorder whose cause is unknown.
“It’s a life limiting illness,” she explained, adding she suffered shortness of breath and tiredness, while some people black out. Not only was the cause of the condition unknown, there was also no cure. Yasmin had to come to grips with the fact she was gravely ill.
Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension was now forever part of her, for as long as she may live. The condition causes high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries, and the “idiopathic” portion of its name simply means that what causes it is as yet unknown.
Yasmin’s condition is dangerous because high blood pressure in her pulmonary arteries strains her heart and causes serious heart and lung problems, which led to her feeling fatigued all the time – and to fainting spells for others.
Now that she was no longer not so blissfully ignorant, Yasmin actually found some measure of relief in knowing she wasn’t just imagining things. That relief, it turned out, was short lived.
While it initially comforted her, that soon passed and gave way to the agonizing reality of living with the condition day in and day out. It wasn’t only the symptoms she had to endure, in fact – it was also the very treatment for the condition itself.
To combat the symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension, Yasmin had an intravenous drip permanently attached to her chest.
The drip is connected to a pump, which circulates the drugs she need to alleviate the pain around her body. It was yet another thing she had to learn to live with, and she endured it all with bravery and poise. Both of those qualities were tested when she learned what might be awaiting her around the corner.
According to accepted estimates, people born with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension have a life expectancy of up to 17 years. At 19, Yasmin had already surpassed her doctors’ expectations.
She was a fighter, and wouldn’t let her condition overcome her – or define who she was. She continued her life as best she could, trying to hang onto some semblance of normalcy after her world came crashing with the diagnosis. Most days, she even succeeded. But then came the note.
Living with her condition was hard enough. What Yasmin really didn’t need to compound her troubles were the judging stares of other people.
Seeming perfectly healthy on the outside, she was judged every time she parked her vehicle in a handicapped spot. “You can tell people are staring when you get out of the car,” she said. “When I put my badge up I feel like I have to walk out of the car limping.” The note pushed her over the edge. She had had enough.
She was almost used to the stares. The note, placed callously by someone quick to judge her, was something new. Posting on her Facebook page, Yasmin chose to address the unnamed person directly.
“To the person who wrote this lovely message on my car last night,” she wrote. “Just because I look well doesn’t mean I am well!” She proceeded to take them to task for judging her without having any idea how much strength it took to wake up each and every day to battle her own body.
Yasmin concluded her post by saying, “If you’d like to give me your heart and lungs I would happily go back to my old life! Not all disability is visible!”
She was judged because she appeared “normal,” and was simply sick and tired of having to constantly prove there was something wrong with her. She didn’t care what others might think about her anymore. She had to let the world know how she felt. How would the world respond?
Yasmin shared her feelings just over a month ago, but her post has already gotten more than 4,600 likes and 1,100 comments. It was also shared 3,900 times by people who were touched by her journey, and frustration.
“Well done for speaking up for yourself and others in the same situation,” one commenter said. “Keep your chin up. Ignore those who lead sad little lives,” advised another. The outpouring of support moved her so much that it was almost worth it going through the whole ordeal.
Perhaps motivated by Yasmin’s case – and that of others like her – the British government is currently overhauling the Blue Badge system allowing people to park in disabled parking places in what has been hailed as the biggest change in 40 years.
The overhaul could help more than 44,000 extra people receive the badge in the first year, and an additional 177,700 over the next decade. “This will ensure people with hidden disabilities can enjoy the freedoms many of us take for granted,” the British transport minister said.
Yasmin was overwhelmed with how supportive people have been. “A lot of people are commenting and I can’t even look properly,” she said in an interview. “I’m just scrolling through taking it all in.”
She also mentioned she could only hope the post made people thinking before “jumping to such damaging conclusions.” Luckily for her, she’s used to brushing off that sort of thing, but other people may not be so lucky. She spoke out for those she felt had no voice.
Almost one in every two Americans suffers from some kind of chronic condition, but naturally most of them are not considered disabled. Moreover, 96 percent of those suffering chronic illnesses show no outward signs of being sick.
Those who do suffer from invisible disabilities like Yasmin’s, meanwhile, number around ten percent of the population in the United States. Their lives are daily struggles, not just against their own bodies but against society as well, which often discriminates against them or otherwise makes it difficult for them to lead normal lives.
In spite of the disabilities that make life difficult for them – or perhaps because of those disabilities – people suffering invisible conditions try to get the most out of life, and squeeze every drop of enjoyment and activities that they can.
Even if they’re relatively young people, like Yasmin, they know better than to take anything for granted. Every moment they can be active or enjoy the outdoors without much pain or effort is to be cherished, as it may be a while before another such moment comes along.
Luckily for her, Yasmin doesn’t have to face all those hardships alone. She enjoys the constant support, encouragement and help of her mother and sister, not to mention her close circle of friends.
Yasmin knew better than to take that support for granted, and was extremely grateful and humbled by the presence of these people in her life. For her, they truly made life worth living. In the case of Yasmin’s older sister, Nicole, she did more than that…
As is often the case with people suffering from financial or health problems, the Swift family also took to crowdfunding for help in managing costly hospital and doctor costs, which for Yasmin have been mounting.
The crowdfunding campaign, launched on the platform JustGiving, was started by her sister Nicole. It sought to raise £800 – or just over $1,000 – from anyone willing to open their hearts – and their wallets. The campaign, it soon became apparent, was a rousing success.
In just two months, the campaign raised 221 percent of its goal, reaching £1,770 – equal to almost $2,300. Nicole and Yasmin weren’t about to take it all for themselves, either.
While fifty percent of the proceeds from the campaign went to funding Yasmin’s “medical trips, prescriptions and to adjust to her new lifestyle,” the remaining half went to the British charity specializing in idiopathic primary pulmonary hypertension. It wasn’t just about Yasmin – it was about giving back.
Yasmin couldn’t be luckier. Her sister wasn’t the only rock she could count on to be there for her – she could also lean on her boyfriend for support.
The guy in question, Tyler Samuel Norris, is more than happy to lend her a hand, and Yasmin isn’t shy about flaunting off that fact – and him as well. In one social media post, she uploaded a photo of the two of them with the caption “boyfriend appreciation post.”
In another couples activity, Yasmin and Tyler were seen swimming with friendly dolphins at the Zoomarine Algarve theme park in Portugal.
Both the young lovebirds and the oceanic mammals seemed to be having the time of their lives, a notion which was confirmed in the comments. Yasmin captioned the photo, “So glad I got to do this with you!” while Tyler replied in kind, writing, “So lucky I was the one who go to do it with you. Trip of a lifetime!”
Just glancing at this young woman’s Instagram will show you she is making the most of every moment she has with her loved ones.
You might even be a little jealous, seeing all of the pristine beaches and other enviable destinations Yasmin seems to frequent. Let go of the green-eyed monster, however, and take a moment to consider if all of those photos don’t hide something else, which lurks just beneath the surface. Looking a little closer will help discover what it is.
In another photo from their Portuguese vacation, posted most likely after they returned, Yasmin is pictured in a bikini on the beach, looking as happy as she could be.
The caption for the photo gave a subtle hint as to what was going on, though: “I know where I would much rather be today!” One peek at the comments showed the entire picture. Yasmin’s older sister Nicole asked if she was okay, and Yasmin replied that her entire shoulder area was sore, and that it hurt just to move it.
If anything could make the heartache she suffered due to the note – and every heartache that came before it – worth it, it would be raising awareness not only for her condition but for every other kind of invisible disability.
Yasmin didn’t seek publicity or fame. She only wanted people to think twice before they judge others, and to wonder whether there’s more to the person before them than immediately meets the eye. It’s a lesson most of us would do well to remember.
Self-love expert Nitika Chopra couldn’t agree – or sympathize – more with Yasmin. When she was 19, she was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.
She remembered how when she first moved to New York City, she’d get onto packed subway cars only to find no one even considered giving up their seat for her, despite her physical discomfort. “I held back countless tears from the feeling no one understood what I was going through,” she said, adding struggles like that still come up on every day when dealing with an invisible chronic condition.
Yasmin could not and would not be cowed by the attempt at intimidating her. Nor would she let it affect her otherwise sunny, positive outlook on life.
English poet George Herbert famously wrote once, “Living well is the best revenge.” She intended to put that saying into practice in her own life. Knowing the time allotted her by fate may be cut prematurely short due to her condition, she would waste no more time on the negativity of those with small minds, and hearts.