Refusing to be a victim of circumstance, Emily has transformed her life again and again; overcoming more in decades than many would in a lifetime. Her incredible autobiography captures her challenging birth, community and childhood in Kenya, her ongoing studies, and her brutal stroke recovery, painting the picture of how Emily has gone on to become the embodiment of true success, supporting and growing two multi-million dollar businesses which she now helms.
We caught up with Emily to find out more about her extraordinary journey of courage and determination…against all odds.
Tell us about the two incredible women you were raised by and your experience growing up in Nakuru, Kenya?
Ruth Titany, affectionately known as Cucu or Grandmother, was the inspiration who taught me what unconditional love looked like. She was my number one cheerleader and continually reminded me to pursue my passions and make the best of all opportunities.
My mother, Rebecca Titany, had been still-born in a small village in the county of Bomet, Kenya. My late grandmother’s third still-born child, she was also pronounced dead by the midwives who worked at Tenwek Hospital when she had no discernible heartbeat and made no crying sound.
Outside the hospital, Ruth took the ‘lifeless’ body of my mother, placed the baby under a bush and walked away. My great-grandmother insisted that this child needed a proper burial and went to pick her up, finding her still warm with a faintly beating pulse.
Growing up in the most remote part of SOT in Bomet, mum’s reflection on her childhood was of a beautiful upbringing, even though she grew up in the poverty-stricken environment that typically exists in so many African villages: the waste, the dirt, and the utter hardship.
When you were 37 your life was changed in the wake of a debilitating stroke. You overcame improbable odds through a year of recovery and intensive physical therapy, how did this change your world?
On June 23, 2012 we shared a beautiful Saturday in Adelaide, preparing to celebrate one of our dear friends at a surprise 40th party, which I had been asked to MC. While mulling over what a pleasant day we all had and anticipating the great night ahead, life as we knew it unraveled quickly.
I experienced a sudden, very sharp headache while walking into the ensuite to shower. I headed back into my room to get my water and some painkillers, but the two tablets I was carrying fell from my hands. I simply picked the tablets up and kept walking, but the tablets fell out of my hands a second time. Again, I picked them up and continued walking. The third time they fell one broke, drawing the attention of my daughter Britney. She offered to pick the tablets up for me, but as she was rising to give me the tablets, my outstretched hand flopped down and my whole body started wobbling. This time it wasn’t tablets that fell to the floor, but me.
My husband hurried in and quickly called the emergency number, asked for help, explained what was happening and that I was fading in and out of consciousness.
The stroke brought so much pain to our family but it has also turned out to be a stroke of luck. Throughout the recovery I never wavered. I completed over a year of grueling physical rehabilitation followed by completing a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) majoring in Human Resource Management.
What were your experiences during recovery and how did this open your eyes to wanting to make a change in the disability care sector?
Before my discharge from Hampstead the OT visited our house and recommended we modify it in order for me to be discharged home safely. My husband felt we should rent an accessible house, and move home when I got better. We started to look for an accessible house, but could not find one to rent or buy. Our drive became to make sure people with disabilities have choice when it comes to housing, leading to the birth of BET GROUP GLOBAL.
BET was born with a mission to “change the narrative by creating a future where people with disabilities have real choice and access to ALL opportunities”.
BET is a registered NDIS provider, now the fastest growing and most innovative disability housing service provider in South Australia and Victoria. Being CEO of a successful organisation in this sector has enabled me to recognise how every decision I make impacts someone’s life.
Do you have any advice for other women facing adversity based on what you’ve learned from overcoming challenges?
Don’t let anyone else’s perception of you become your reality, only you can stop you.
Getting what you want in life is all about focus. No matter what happens, you must remember why you wanted your goal: it’s your purpose, your passion, your reason for living.
What inspired you to write a memoir about your experiences?
In writing this memoir, one of my motivations has been to challenge you, the reader, to dare to dream.
Throw yourself into experiences that will lead you to your purpose and, if you fail, don’t give up, but face life with hope and try again.
I also wrote these words as a book of lessons for my children. I hope they are inspired to find their own life’s purpose.
Against All Odds, Emily’s raw and gripping memoir, is available to purchase from againstallodds.com.au