Behind the Beverage: Oliver Collins

Mid last year I had to ask my boss if I could work from home a couple of days a week. I was feeling exhausted and starting to struggle physically. I felt like I was failing and giving into my disease, and I hated it. Turns out my boss was completely supportive and accommodating. Really, that’s what working with a disability is all about – transparency on both sides. I had to realise that, despite having to do things differently to everyone else, it doesn’t stop me from contributing to my team. Ironically, now our whole team is working from home!

I come from a tightknit family and I’m fortunate to have had a strong support network my entire life. My family is the reason I’ve never given up because it was never an option to give up. Mum has a background in special education and she saw from the get-go that something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t crawl and walk the same as my older brother and, thanks to her persistence, at 18 months old I was diagnosed with Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP for short). FOP is an extremely rare condition affecting less than 1000 people worldwide. Essentially, it’s a progressive disease that causes my muscles and soft tissues to permanently turn to bone, and the excess bone to grow through joints, gradually encasing my body in a ‘second skeleton’.

So yeah, it’s a “thing” but it’s never been a “thing” that’s stopped me from doing ‘normal’ things like riding a bike or playing sport, despite approaching them a little differently. FOP has never stopped me from being me and it certainly didn’t stop me from becoming a solicitor.  

I became a lawyer because I love problem solving and debating. No problem is unsolvable and when you’re living with a progressive disease that gradually limits your movement, you constantly have to figure out different ways of doing things. As a result, the brain has to work harder to fix these everyday problems, which also gives me a unique insight in terms of my legal career. My condition doesn’t negatively affect my brain, and although my body might move a bit differently, I am just as capable as anyone else.

I actually only started drinking coffee when I became a lawyer! It started with an occasional flat white, but one of the perks of working from home is you can order a MacDonald’s Coffee Frappe on UberEats anytime you want with no judgment!

Lexi Kehl is the Queensland Law Society PR & Media Executive. If you’d like to sit down for a beverage or know someone with a great story to tell: l.kehl@qls.com.au.

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