Helena the Mermaid found her passion in physical therapy.
The Norfolk, Va., resident, who now works as a professional mermaid, felt mostly unaffected by her rare condition for years. She wasn’t even diagnosed with Charcot–Marie–Tooth (CMT) disease until she was 14.
CMT affects the nerves throughout a person’s arms and legs, affecting coordination and weakening the muscles. As Helena wrote in an essay for the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation (HNF), those symptoms were originally written off by others as “clumsiness.”
That changed after her diagnosis and then again in her 20s. Helena got married and had a baby, but childbirth caused her condition to “drastically” progress. She now uses a wheelchair to get around.
In addition to her mermaiding work, Helena uses her platforms to spread awareness about her rare disorder. She’s open, educational and outspoken against discrimination.
“I call out ableist comments,” her TikTok bio reads.
Helena practices what she preaches too. She’s gone as far as to respond to hateful comments directly, sometimes with a bit of mermaid-themed sarcasm.
In her most popular TikTok, she answers a series of questions that were apparently raised by another hateful commenter.
“But who could be a disabled mermaid?” one of her on-screen questions asks.
“Me!” Helena answers.
Helena’s been outspoken about what mermaiding has done for her life. Among other things, it gives her a strong community of support and a platform to inspire others.
“I try to be a positive influence to others in wheelchairs or with disabilities, and hope I can share beauty and magic with those who need it most,” Helena wrote in her HNF essay. “From other mermaids, to fire artists, to belly dancers, I have a whole group of new spectacular friends who I love to work with and visit.”
Check out In The Know’s story on Mackenzie Trush, the TikToker with a rare form of dwarfism.
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