Name: David Zehnder
Where do you call home? Nürnberg, Germany
Education: Electronics technician for devices and systems, completed further training as a state-certified technician (electronics)
Who do you live with? I live with my parents.
What's a typical day for you? My day starts at 5.30am. At 6am, I start working (as IT support) until noon (45min lunch break). I keep working till 2pm. At 4pm, I have one hour of physical therapy. Then I get home, have dinner, relax in front of the TV or by listening to the radio. I go to bed at 10pm.
How long have you known you are living with FA? It started slowly in 2013 with walking instability. I got the diagnosis in 2016 (genetic test).
Are there any others with FA in your family? My brother (31) also has FA.
Describe your transition from walking to walker/wheelchair. I got my crutches in 2017 during my rehab after a fall (without injuries). I quickly realized that it was faster and safer that way, so I accepted the crutches. In 2019 I got my first wheelchair, it was a strange feeling at first, but after a short time I realized what I can do again. For example, I can take part in excursions again, without limits in the distance.
What do you like to do to stay active and what type of exercises work for you to stay strong? When there is good weather, I go to physical therapy with my handbike. (about 2 miles). I use a home trainer at home for my legs. I walk short distances with help when I climb or in physical therapy.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests? Twice a week I go indoor climbing. One time with a rope (TopRope) where my father secures me. The other time without a rope (Boulder) where my father supports me. When there is good weather, I use my handbike. In summer I make a tour with the handbike. Once a month there is training with the wheelchair group. (https://rolli-treff-franken.de/).
What is a good trick to make daily life easier? Always stay positive and smile
When FA gets you down, what do you think/do to feel better? I think about good times – “Tomorrow the world is looking better again.”
What is one way living with FA has POSITIVELY affected your life? I met a lot of therapists that always supported me.
What is a favorite motivational quote of yours? Mindset is everything
What is the best advice YOU could give to a person who has been newly diagnosed with FA? Join an organisation, like the german one - Friedreich Ataxie Förderverein e.V. (https://www.friedreich-ataxie.de/). There you meet people, get advices and see that you are not alone.
What is the first thing you want to do when a cure/treatment to FA is found? Enjoy it, walk without help and take stairs.
"I have FA but FA doesn't have me." What does this statement mean to you? How do you live your life in the face of adversity? It means a lot to me. No matter how hard the problem is, you can do it. A lot has nothing to do with FA. You take an easier way and use FA as an excuse.
Interviewed by Jakob Mitterhauser