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Jazz singer loves her mobility scooter, and she's finally ready to change her tune

Ottawa jazz singer Kellylee Evans poses for a photo with her mobility scooter, lovingly nicknamed 'Sunny.' (Alan Neal/CBC - image credit)
Ottawa jazz singer Kellylee Evans poses for a photo with her mobility scooter, lovingly nicknamed 'Sunny.' (Alan Neal/CBC - image credit)

It took Ottawa jazz singer Kellylee Evans years to admit to herself that she might need a little extra help after being struck by lightning a decade ago and then suffering a bad concussion just two years later.

But now that she's allowed an almost 30-kilogram mobility scooter nicknamed "Sunny" to change her life for the better, she wants people to know she doesn't need anyone to feel sorry for her.

"I felt ... a lot of shame, and embarrassment, having to admit that I needed help. But asking for help has been the best thing," she told CBC Radio's All In A Day in an interview earlier this week.

"If you see me in a mobility scooter, don't feel sorry for me, honestly. I kind of felt sorry for myself a little bit, I'll admit. But now I realize .... she's my wheels. She's giving me the ability to get out and about be with my family in places. It's like, honestly, I'm so happy."

A profound realization at the airport 

The straw finally broke last spring at an airport in Europe, as Evans was getting ready to board a plane from France to Germany. The left side of her body isn't working the way it used to before the lightning strike and concussion, and she was having trouble with balance and walking.

An airline attendant had opened up a wheelchair for her to get into. When she got up out of her seat and walked the short distance over to the wheelchair, Evans recalled him shouting, "Oh, she can walk? God be praised! Isn't that amazing?" in front of about 200 other passengers.

Her disability is invisible, and he doubted she had one. The shock of it caused her to cry.

But then Evans had a thought. Perhaps she couldn't blame him. Maybe she had the very same doubt. Maybe she hadn't been honest with herself for years about what she needed.

LISTEN | Alan Neal's interview with Kellylee Evans:

"I'm constantly saying I can do it, I can do it, I can do it," she said.

"I was in the airplane crying [about what happened] and I realized, I need to take this seriously. And when I got back home I started to look for ... a mobility scooter that I could take with me. Because I knew I also had more touring to do and I didn't know how I was going to be able to do it. I was exhausted.

"And so I got home and I ordered this, and it's been the best thing that's happened for me."

Coming to terms

The singer's journey to self acceptance continues to play out.

"It's only this year that I actually am really coming to terms with the fact that it could be — that maybe, possibly, this is a long-term effect. And I get teary thinking about it because I'm still hopeful," she said.

But she feels buoyed by the strangers who have seen her in public in her scooter and come up to chat about their mobility issues, or how a scooter might improve their lives.

"It never occurred to me that me admitting that I needed this and using it and being ... visible with it would actually help somebody else.

"Asking for help is helpful, go figure," she said with a laugh.

Evans is next appearing at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Fest on Feb. 3 for a Hall & Oates tribute with The 33z.