Teleflex for active living: people up close – Nicoletta

Improving people’s quality of life and health is the central theme of our Teleflex Urology Care business unit. For many years now, Teleflex Urology Care has supported events and sponsorship activities with its “Teleflex for active living” initiative, where we interact with users of our products. With our new series “Teleflex for active living: people up close”, we aim to introduce you to some truly impressive personalities from different countries. Today, we’re talking to Nicoletta from Italy.

Teleflex for active living: people up close – Nicoletta

Nicoletta was born in 1979 in Tuscany, and is a former gymnast in the Italian national rhythmic gymnastics team, with whom she participated not only in various world championships but also in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. A civil engineer, she lost the use of her legs in 2008 due to a herniated disc. In spite of everything, she never gave up her great passion for dance and founded the dance company “InOltre” with her friend Silvia Bertoluzza, which she uses to put on dance shows such as “The Doll” and “Absence” throughout Italy. “The wheelchair is never seen on stage, because we aim to focus the audience’s attention on who we are and what we can express, on our art. We don’t want to hide disability, but we invite everyone to go beyond their limits. This mindset gives me a sense of freedom.” In 2017 she participated in Italia’s Got Talent with Silvia, receiving the golden buzzer from Nina Zilli. In 2022, Nicoletta starred in the documentary film “The Path of Joy” by director Thomas Torelli, winner of an award at the 2022 HIIFF (Heart International Italian Film Festival”, where her motivational spirit was very much in evidence).

What is your everyday life like, both at work and in private? What is your experience with intermittent catheterisation?
My life is very varied and each day is always different from the next. I alternate between many different activities in a day and I wear a variety of different “outfits”. My main activity is freelance, I’m a civil engineer and I deal with structural design, it’s definitely a demanding job but it allows me to get organised and to devote myself to many of my other passions as well: I teach dance to children, I devote myself to the space that I manage together with Silvia to organise events, I train for dance and it’s through dance that I bring our message to schools and theatres in Italy. I’m a very curious person, who likes to travel and discover new places in my free time, preferably in the company of lots of friends!

Over time, my relationship with intermittent catheterisation has changed., Initially, it used to take over my day, but as I learned to listen to myself, I understood the signals that my body was giving me more clearly, so I was able to better manage my time without being conditioned by the clock and to start living with this surgery in a completely natural way.

Let’s get a bit more in-depth: What’s your story to share with our readers today? Please tell us about your journey and what makes it special. Tell us about some of the extraordinary moments that you have experienced.
I was raised in a family where sport was considered a very important part of growing up. After trying various sports (swimming, skating, dancing, etc.), at the age of 9 I discovered the passion that accompanied me throughout my adolescence: rhythmic gymnastics. I joined the gym and immediately felt at home, it was love at first sight! Every day I couldn’t wait to go back to training to learn new things. I started on a very challenging path in competitive gymnastics, which led to me being called up to the Italian national rhythmic gymnastics team at the age of 14. Years of sacrifice were rewarded with some highly emotional experiences, until I eventually fulfilled a dream: to participate in the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.

After this experience, I chose to devote myself to another great passion: my studies. I moved to Florence, where I attended the Faculty of Civil Engineering, but during the years of study I could not stay away from sports and the feeling of well-being it was able to give me, which led me to approach the world of dance. At first I enrolled in a course for amateurs, but I soon realised that this was not enough and I really wanted to get involved in this beautiful art, so I took part in an audition and joined the “Florence Dance Company”. I divided my days between study and dance rehearsals. I spent some very pleasant but also challenging years in this way.

One Monday morning, the unexpected happened: I was woken by a sharp pain in my back, I remember the first tingling sensation in my feet that quickly spread to my legs, the loss of strength, the rush to the hospital: an expelled hernia was compressing the spinal cord and compromising it, which led to me losing the use of the lower part of my body in just a few hours. Thus began a period filled with mixed emotions: fear alternated with moments of hope and uncertainty about the future that awaited me. I quickly realised how much my past was actually coming to my aid; sports had taught me that in times of difficulty there’s always a solution at hand, small goals to be achieved daily that gave me the strength to cope. I never thought, however, that sports would once again take centre stage in my life. In the hospital, the first time someone suggested I play tennis, I could never have imagined how much this would help me to find myself again. I began a journey of confrontation with so many different experiences, to regain the spaces I thought I had lost, to regain my independence in everyday life but also in the travel I loved so much.

In the meantime, I graduated and started working as an engineer, but once again life managed to surprise me. I was in Florence to attend a medical conference, and curiosity drove me back to the dance studio where I had experienced so many hours of training years before. The choreographer I had worked with was teaching his class, and as soon as he saw me, he interrupted his lesson, ran to me and gave me a hug that I will never forget. A few days later, he suggested that I come back to dance with him in a pas de deux to be offered at a summer festival. The very thought of returning to terrain that I knew so well, but in a totally different state of being, kept me awake for several nights. How could I go back to dancing with only half of my body? Well, I now have the answer to that question and the hesitation I felt at that moment is most definitely a thing of the past.

This is part of my story that I’m sharing with you today. It’s made up of extraordinary moments, or rather, moments that will always remain etched in my mind, experiences that filled my life. I can think of all the achievements that have been made after so much effort, small and big goals that I’ve achieved. I can remember so many laughs, but also tears, which were followed by hugs that I will never forget. My mind goes back to so many encounters and energies, which we must always find the courage to remain receptive to.

What is your biggest challenge in everyday life and what would you say is the greatest opportunity? How do you get motivated or inspire others?
My daily goal is to live each day to the fullest, in the most peaceful way possible. Achieving small daily goals contributes to our personal fulfilment and to increasing our independence. The freedom to choose for ourselves and being willing to seize upon the possibilities that fate has in store for us is the greatest opportunity and also our greatest asset.

Everyone has their own story, their own experiences, which, if shared, can help or inspire the journey of others. I try to contribute in my own small way by making my experience available and simply living as much as possible through sharing with others.

In my own journey, I can think of many situations where taking advantage of opportunities and sharing an experience with others has given me so much and made things easier for me. One example was meeting with the Freerider Sport Events association. A weekend in the snow at a time when I was still in the hospital and had huge doubts in my mind helped speed up the journey to my own individual rebirth. Finding myself sharing experiences with people with similar issues to mine but who were actively living with their condition with ease made me realise how much I could still believe in my dreams, that anything was still possible. Sharing those days with the other families and friends who were present made me feel included; we were all there with one purpose: to have fun.

Looking back, what are you most proud of having done? And why?
Of having the courage to get myself back out there in spite of everything, of being able to remain open to opportunities and to be there for others. If I had not accepted the choreographer’s proposal, I would never have met Silvia backstage there.

Silvia, who had taken my place in the company, was there that night with her dance and I was there with mine. We had never met before, but incredibly it seemed like she had known me forever: she sat next to me at the back of that stage, we exchanged a few words that helped me overcome my fear of returning to the stage, fear of laying myself bare in such different circumstances, unable to move half of my body, what would the audience think, how would they feel?

At that moment a special friendship began, which led us to want to share our great mutual passion for dance. And so we had fun experimenting with new ways of dancing together, we created new choreography together: “The Doll” which tells my story: a doll who wakes up and realises that something is wrong, her legs aren’t responding to her. After the first moments of despair and fear, there follows the realisation and rebirth of a new doll, who is different but equally beautiful. In terms of choreography, we dance together and we overlap: Silvia moves her legs and I move my torso, and so we become one; “The Butterfly” is a choreography about how even in nature a change, if approached with courage, can present a new and beautiful opportunity. Just think of how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. In this choreography, Silvia and I move through space supported by an iron structure that allows me to dance standing up: “Grim.”

“Grim” is the name we gave to this amazing instrument that Silvia conceived, designed and made for me over the course of a year, without saying a word to me about it, which allowed me to experience anew the feeling of dancing dynamically in space and gave us many beautiful moments (Thank you Silvia!!!) All this made us want to continue, so much so that we founded a new dance company, “inOltre”, putting on performances through which we aim to convey our message: “Each of us has limitations, visible and invisible, and recognising them and becoming aware of them is the first step to overcoming them. And if this is experienced in interaction with others, we will surely be able to go much farther than we could alone.”

You use intermittent single-use catheters to empty your bladder – which product do you use and why?
I’ve been using Liquick Pure for many years. I chose them because they are so compact and comfortable to insert thanks to the special Ergothan tip. As I live a very dynamic life, I need a product that is comfortable to wear and quick and easy to use.

What are your wishes for the future? In general, but also specifically with regard to the topic of intermittent catheterisation?
I would like to continue to live and pursue my passions, sharing them with people I love. I want to have new experiences, meet beautiful people and, if necessary, always turn whatever life throws at me into an opportunity. For the future, I hope that the project I share with Silvia will allow me to help others, especially young people, to create moments of sharing, experiences that allow whoever has them to grow and improve.

Do you have any tips for everyday life, work, travel and leisure with respect to intermittent catheterisation?
To the people who read this, I would like to say: live every day without fear of the unexpected and use every difficulty as an opportunity for personal growth.

Do you have any personal closing words for our readers?
Don’t let what may be seen as a limitation hold you back, live every day to the fullest and never give up on your dreams.

Nicoletta, many thanks for these interesting insights and we wish you all the best for your future.

Image source: private

The provided product information is the personal opinion of the interviewed person and is not a substitute for the product instructions for use. Please always contact your doctor when you have medical problems.