IF overcoming adversity could be likened to scaling a mountain then Joan Latta sits proudly at the summit of Everest.
Many people quote the law of averages as being a concept to be relied upon and yet, if that were the case, Joan would have perished on the very day she was brought into the world, just as doctors had predicted.
As it is, she not only flew in the face of the dying notices she received in the opening 24 hours of her life, she defied medical science and in the subsequent years, has demonstrated Naked Leader’s ‘Just Do It’ mantra to the letter.
Joan, now 24, was starved of oxygen for the first 28 minutes of her life and the consequence is she has cerebral palsy.
Not that it is going to stop her being what she wants to be – an international speaker. She will accomplish her aim. It’s a given.
Rather than complain about the hand fate has dealt her, Joan is a positive person who prefers to concentrate on what she is going to make happen, rather than reflect on things that already have, and are out of her control.
‘Until I was a few months old they said I might survive and I would never be able to do much in my life,’ Joan says. ‘They also never believed that I would be able to go to school like other children.
‘I was tube fed for the first six months of life until my mum taught me to swallow after talking to her great aunt who was a midwife in the very old times. I had many different types of therapy when I was a young child to help me gain strength.
‘My dad trained me to be a hiker at the age of 10 and I have done many long-distance hikes including the South West Coastal Path. It’s 640 miles long and I did it in less than 10 weeks and have run 18 miles in less than four hours.’
For those of us who take life for granted, it is worth reading those last few lines again to consider the magnitude of this remarkable woman’s achievements.
‘I have successfully completed my GCSEs and a level 3 BETEC in Health and Social Care as well as currently studying for an Open University degree,’ adds Joan. ‘I have now started up a business doing motivational speaking about living with Cerebral Palsy and training about a wide range of disabilities. I go around schools, colleges, universities and charities doing talks. I have done talk tours in Hong Kong and Spain.’
Hailing from Fakenham, Norfolk, where she has lived all of her life, Joan became self-employed after being made redundant from her role as a teaching assistant at a special needs school, at the end of 2013.
She set up her business – Cerebral Palsy Alive and Kicking – with support from the Prince’s Trust, which helped with market research and provided a mentor.
She has also written a teenage thriller called Halloween Night, which can be downloaded as a Kindle e-book.
So what next for Joan? ‘My future ambition is to carry on doing motivational speeches to large corporate companies as well as talks at schools and charities,’ she says. ‘I want to be a speaker nationally, and also internationally, and I want to show people that if I can do it, they can do it too and to always have hope.
‘The thing that drives me is the fact that I have inspired so many people already, I want to share my story to an even wider audience.’
Joan’s incredible tale – and desire to expand her knowledge and grow her business – shows all of us there is really no reason we can’t go out and be the very best we can be. Her life has been one of looking up and wondering how she will tackle the next hurdle.
Now, from her mountain top, peering down at the obstacles life has thrown at her and which she has left in her slipstream, Joan can sport a satisfied smile and contemplate her next accomplishments.
Naked Leader founder David Taylor, who met Joan on a Naked Leader leadership workshop, said: ‘Joan is a simply extraordinary person. No matter what life has thrown at her, she has kept going, believing and dedicating her life to helping others to achieve their potential. Thank you Joan, for being you.’
(Anybody who can offer Joan help or advice in achieving her goal of expanding her business can contact her via Facebook, on Twitter (@CpAliveKicking), her mobile number, 07462 801887 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)