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Webster, medical specialist

In 2007, Victoria Webster became Sweden’s first specialist in emergency medical care. This attracted considerable media attention, since she has a cerebral palsy (CP) disorder. ‘I feel I have the right to exist and live my life without having to explain everything’, Victoria says.

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Photo: Paul Hansen/
DN/Scanpix

Meeting patients

When meeting patients, it’s important for Victoria to take the initiative in explaining her disability. She moves about fairly freely. Walks a little falteringly and speaks more slowly than many others.

‘I tell them my name’s Victoria, that I have a congenital disability that looks and sounds like this, and that I hope it doesn’t disturb them.’

If patients ask, she explains that she has a cerebral palsy (CP)* disorder. ‘What I’m really telling the patient is that I have this disability, that I was recruited for this job at the emergency room, and that you don’t have to worry.’

Victoria enjoys meeting patients when they arrive and being the one who decides whether they are to be admitted for hospital care or not. Her duties cover a wide range, especially at a major emergency room – surgery, orthopedics, cardiology and internal medicine.

‘I can now do them all, but it’s definitely taken me longer than for someone without CP damage’, she says.

Living a regular life

Away from work, she doesn’t want to talk about her disability, unless someone asks.

‘I feel I have the right to exist and live my life without having to explain everything’, she says.

Victoria was born and grew up in Finland, but has lived in Sweden for long periods. As a medical student in the late 1980s, she encountered plenty of prejudice. Shop staff would ask if they could help her as soon as she came through the door, and they spoke slowly and carefully to her, she recalls.

Shortly after the millennium shift, Victoria returned to Sweden to apply for a job at a hospital in Stockholm. ‘Things had really changed by then. I didn’t feel I was being watched like before. I was one of the crowd, except when I asked for help myself’, she says.

Note: This article was originally published in 2010. Today, Victoria works as an accident and emergency consultant at the Haartman hospital in Helsinki.

Last updated: 25 March 2014

Erika Wermeling

Erika Wermeling

Erika Wermeling is a journalist who enjoys writing about people with disabilities. Formerly a school reporter, she now works on a freelance basis.