Struck by a crippling disease at 17, Asad Rafi was determined not to let a metal chair define who he was.

I was barely 17 when the symptoms started to appear: first, incessant back pain, then curvature of the spine and loss of balance, followed by weakness in my arms and legs and a lack of coordination.

Then came the diagnosis: I had a neurological condition called Friedreich’s Ataxia, a genetic disease that was causing progressive damage to my nervous system. I was an only child and my parents were devastated.

I was made to wear a special brace which was supposed to prevent further damage to my spine and help me move about. Even going to school had become a challenge. I had dreamed of one day becoming a sportsman, but now even something as simple as climbing stairs seemed impossible. The stairs at school became my greatest foe, but I persevered, moving around with the aid of a walker.

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