SMILING THROUGH ADVERSITY
Thema Davis, a gifted dancer and model, was struck down with the extremely rare stomach condition, Gastroparesis, and told by doctors that she had six days to live. Having battled through her illness, the woman who was told she would never walk again is now enjoying a successful dance career in London. Wisdom has decided to reward her for showing amazing strength and courage, and smiling through adversity.
Thema, 29, is coached at a prestigious dance school by former prima ballerina Christina Hughes. Thema, of Jamaican heritage, has always been a positive go-getter with a gruelling schedule and, when she was struck down by a mystery illness in 2004, doctors told her she would be up and running again within two weeks. She went into hospital counting down the days to fulfilling her ambition of becoming Britain’s first black female professional ballerina to perform at the Royal Opera House, but unfortunately she never got to see out this dream.
Things took a turn for the worse following the operation and her weight mysteriously plummeted to just five stone. After baffling doctors at eight different hospitals, none of whom could diagnose her, Thema was eventually given the horrifying news that she only had six days to live. Going against everyone’s advice Thema decided that she would spend her final days in America seeing her newborn nephew for the first time.
Steeled with a bottle and a half of morphine, she made it to America but collapsed at the airport and was rushed to hospital. It was then that she was finally diagnosed with the rare stomach disorder, Gastroparesis, a potentially fatal near-total paralysis of the stomach. It is suspected that a large number of people in the UK suffer with the condition but unfortunately, due to lack of funding, very little research has yet been conducted into it. In the US, however, there are seven million known sufferers. Due to its vast range of symptoms it is hard to diagnose and unfortunately few survive.
Over the following months Thema battled through a total of 12 operations which have left her with severe stomach scarring. Unfortunately when she returned to the UK, her life-saving medication wasn’t available and she spent an incredibly painful and uncertain time in hospital having various treatments and medicines tested on her until, miraculously, one worked. Though Gastroparesis is a chronic condition, it can be treated but tragically not cured. Thema was able to begin rebuilding her life and is now even more determined than ever to realise her dancing dream.
Thema has been an inspiration to other sufferers in her recovery and is now fighting to raise awareness of Gastroparesis in the hope that no other sufferers in the UK have to go through the pain and uncertainty that she has endured. At present, there is a relatively low survival rate amongst people who contract the illness, largely due to misdiagnosis. She has set up a website which provides more information about the condition and also counsels other sufferers, helping them to come to terms with their illness.
Eleanor Farrant from Wisdom Toothbrushes, who was part of the judging panel, said she chose Thema as the winner for her radiant smile that reflects true inner beauty and courage. “Thema has an unbelievable spirit. She has taken something positive from her experience and now uses that to help others. She is an inspiration to us all,” says Eleanor.
“My illness may have taken over my life, but it has not taken away my smile,” said a beaming Thema. To give Thema even more to smile about, Wisdom has awarded her a free Wislight II teeth whitening treatment and a cosmetic dental consultation at a top London Cosmetic Dentist to reward her inner beauty and to enhance the radiance of her beautiful smile.