By Martha Hewett @martha_hewett
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Videographer / director: Colin Weatherby
Producer: Martha Hewett, Ruby Coote
Editor: Tom Buckman
Luzi Castillo, 12, is gaining a reputation for her daring spirit and appetite for adventure.
Born with Myelomeningocele – a form of Spina Bifida – the bones of Luzi’s spine didn’t form completely, resulting in an incomplete spinal canal.
Luzi, who has had a total of 8 surgeries, is affected from the waist down, meaning she has use of her arms but has to use a wheelchair.
Despite this, you will often find Luzi on the basketball court, at the skate park or on top of a surfboard.
Luzi told Barcroft TV: “If you’re in a wheelchair, you can do anything you want. I’m faster than all the boys at the skatepark.”
Luzi began playing basketball and skating at the age of seven, after her mum suggested she try it out.
“My mum made me try skating and I was kind of scared, but when I tried it, I was like, ‘Oh, I like this.’” Luzi said.
Despite worrying initially, Elizabeth, Luzi’s mum, has learned to let her daughter embrace her daredevil spirit.
“I can’t show her I’m scared, because she will be scared.” Elizabeth said.
Luzi was Elizabeth’s first pregnancy. She was aware something was wrong after seeing the doctor’s reaction at her ultrasound.
“It was scary honestly. I was 18 and straight out of high school with this baby who had special needs,” Elizabeth explained.
“I’d never even heard of Spina Bifida, I Googled it and it was the scariest thing ever. I didn’t think she’d have a bright future.”
It soon became clear, however, that this wasn’t the case and soon enough, they had both adapted well to Luzi’s disability.
“She was crawling around with heavy casts on for nine months, but she was the happiest, nothing stopped her. It was the coolest thing.”
Elizabeth, who has two other young children, is Luzi’s biggest cheerleader and the two are inseparable.
“We all have our moments [but] we are best friends.” Elizabeth said.
When Luzi first began skating, she was nervous and spent as much time on the floor as she did on the ramps, having fallen “multiple times”.
“I couldn’t get up a ramp – the ramps were pretty big – I turned and fell sideways.
However, she didn’t let this deter her from trying again: “I just got back up and had fun again.”
When asked if she is pleased with daredevil reputation, Luzi had a no-nonsense reply: “Yes, because it’s true.”
When you see her at the skatepark, you’ll often see others helping Luzi get back up the bowl in her wheelchair.
“People at the skatepark let me get on the ramps and they cheer me on.”
But Luzi knows who is boss when it comes down to it: “I’m faster than all the boys at the skate park.
“I can do anything I put my mind to.”
For Elizabeth, knowing her daughter is helping others feel confident in their disability fills her with a huge sense of pride.
“She makes me proud every time, whether it’s basketball or surfing, she always does something new.
“I’m happy she’s healthy and she can show other people that there’s no limits.”