Changing lives… with author Val Portelli

Today I’m welcoming author Val Portelli – who writes under the pseudonym of Spinks – to the blog. Life changed dramatically for Val when her legs suddenly went out from under her one day and she couldn’t get back up…

Welcome to the blog, Val. Please tell the readers a little about yourself.

Did you know ‘May you get what you wish for’ is actually a Chinese curse?

Five years ago I had a hectic life, long hours, full-time job, a house to run, various social commitments and no time to breathe.

‘Stop the world, I want to get off,’ I said, and my wish was granted.

Now I have even longer hours, a job which doesn’t give me an income (yet), the spiders have taken over the house, and my social life needs to be organised like a military operation.

Haha! I think a lot of writers will relate to you. Spiders love my place too. What’s the most significant change you’ve experienced to date?

Late one Thursday night I was struggling to clear the priorities before going on holiday the following week. Exhausted and too tired to cook, around one in the morning I decided to make myself some toast and get to bed for a few hours sleep before work the next day.

I stood up, and found myself on the floor. Strange, I hadn’t tripped or fainted. What was I doing down here? Laughing at my stupidity I tried to get up but nothing happened. I wasn’t in pain but my legs wouldn’t function. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I managed to crawl to the bottom of the stairs and phone for help.

A few hours later I was in a room with a senior nurse instructing some students on how to apply plaster to my leg. I felt so sorry for them, and tempted to take the gauze out of their hands to cut it to a suitable length. No way would their efforts go anywhere near the monstrosity my limb had become.

‘Are you keeping me in overnight?’ I asked forgetting it was already four in the morning. ‘Only I’ve got to go to work and I’m going on holiday on Tuesday.’

‘We’ll have to see about that’ was the response, but never in my wildest dreams would I have expected how my life would change from then on.

It must have been quite a shock. What were your initial feelings as you processed what this change would mean for you?

At first I went through all the emotions; anger, frustration, despair, ‘why me?’ Then I felt ashamed and grateful as I shared an ambulance trip with an old lady who could hardly move, but still managed to make us laugh as she flirted outrageously with the drivers.

How did you approach managing the change once you had accepted it?

A month later I was still in hospital, and although I had arranged for a friend to bring in my laptop, and buy me some nightdresses (I normally slept au natural) I wanted out.

‘If we let you go home have you got someone to look after you? Is your bedroom on the ground floor?’ Actual answers ‘No’ and ‘No’.

My job at the time involved supplying hotels, so after telling my boss I might need some extra time off, I gave him my orders for a single bed plus all appropriate bedding to be delivered to my home, and set up in the living room as I was unable to climb the stairs.

Bed-bound, and gazing at the ceiling (it needed painting) I thought about how I now had the time to do jobs around the house, but not the opportunity. My wish had come true.

It seemed my knee had decided to visit my ankle, the operation to insert a long metal support was followed a year later by another one to remove it as the bone had collapsed through the metal, and being able to walk was a long distant memory.

Going stir-crazy but unable to do anything, I took my frustrations out on my computer and started writing again, something I’d always loved but had neglected due to lack of time. I completed my first book, part romance, part memories of my holiday island, and approached a publisher.

What did you learn from the experience?

I had to learn patience. Things that used to take ten minutes now took an hour or more. I became great pals with the ambulance drivers who picked me up for my regular hospital reviews. Making sure I was ready as instructed two or three hours before my appointment, ten minutes being examined, then another couple of hours waiting for transport home meant a full day for every brief six-week check-up.

I was lucky. It seems a funny thing to say but I had strong arms from my years playing netball, an active brain, and plenty of time to observe people a lot worse off than me.

I’ve learnt a lot since then but I’ll never forget that first ‘We want to see more’ communication from a publisher. The happy, skippy dance had to be a mental rather than a physical one as none of the nerves in my leg were talking to my brain.

By coincidence my first published book was actually called ‘Changes.’ Perhaps it was an omen.

How do you feel about change now?

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in day to day living we forget to stretch our boundaries, or follow our dreams. Change is inevitable; sometimes it involves minor things you hardly notice, sometimes major life-changing events.

What would your top tip be for someone going through a similar experience?

Forget what you ‘used to do.’  You’re a new person now, try to look at things in a new way.

If the answer to a problem is not obvious try approaching it from a totally different angle. It might not turn out how you expect but that’s what keeps life interesting.

My mother called me stubborn; I call it being inventive. My first purchase as a disabled person was a ‘picker-upper,’ a long pole with claws on the end to be able to grab things. Obviously access to coffee was a priority. A small computer desk, a plastic litre bottle of water (it used to contain whisky but don’t tell anyone) a cheap second kettle and online shopping soon had that sorted.

Finally, if you could change one thing what would it be?

It would be nice to exchange my left leg for a ‘proper’ one, as long as it didn’t become a ‘Monkey’s paw.’

On a less selfish note I would reintroduce respect into the world, and see what impact it had.

Thanks for taking part in Changing Lives, Val. I’m with you, an inventive mind can see solutions where others see problems, and that, as you’ve already discovered, is a good thing when unexpected changes occur in life.

Here are all the links to Val’s platforms. Val writes under the pseudonym of Voinks:




Spirit of Technology 

ABC Destiny 

Changes: Trailer 

Forget what you ‘used to do.’  You’re a new person now, try to look at things in a new way.

If the answer to a problem is not obvious try approaching it from a totally different angle. It might not turn out how you expect but that’s what keeps life interesting.

Author Val Portelli

If you enjoyed this changing lives interview and would like to take part, please contact me via the form on the blog.


3 thoughts on “Changing lives… with author Val Portelli

  1. Hi Val and Pam, I enjoyed this interview, as a fellow person with disabilities,
    i recognize the way you’ve adapted. Congratulations on your book, I will check it out.


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