I am a very lucky woman with a fulfilling and rewarding life. That is something that many people who know of me but don’t know me personally struggle to believe. If I had been told in early July last year what would happen at the end of the month, I too would have struggled to believe I would continue to love my life afterwards.

Last July on my way to work I had a car accident that changed my life forever. It has been a long road to recovery with many challenges but it has also included many great memories, which I will always cherish.

Because I ended up with a brain injury after my accident I suffered memory loss for a couple months and I still have limited memories of my time at Austin hospital but what I am left with is good memories. I have hazy recollections of only being able to talk for ten minutes at a time because of a tracheotomy and then the amazing moment of when I had it taken out and I could talk the nurses ears off. I remember I spent my 25th birthday there and I loved it. I woke up to gloves blown up like balloons, nurses painting my nails red, nurses giving me presents and many of my friends and family celebrating with me. I remember that night I was laughing so much with my sister that nurses rushed in thinking I was dying.

I was then transferred to the Royal Talbot Rehab Centre and my brain injury was improving so I remember much more clearly all my good memories there.

I remember my first social event at the Talbot which was a poker night. It was great fun and we got free pizza; I couldn’t eat the pizza because I was peg fed and wasn’t allowed to eat food. The idea of sitting at a table with everyone else eating sounds as if it might be difficult but everyone there was chatting to me and making jokes which made missing out on pizza not so bad and funny instead. I remember three months after my accident I was allowed to take my neck brace, which I had worn because of a C1 fracture, off and I was allowed to eat food again. An unforgettable taste of my first meal which was a bowl of pasta, as every good Italians first choice would be! I remember playing pranks on nurses, including the time I filled a new catheter bag with apple juice and drank it in front of them. The significant moments when I realised I could still achieve my goals and ambitions, just with a twist.  I remember the many friends I have made since my injury and feel very lucky to know them.

I have countless good memories, but I also remember the moments I cried. I cried the moment I found out you had to do catheters during the night and I would never get eight hours sleep again. I was loving netball and devasted when I realised I would never play with my team again. I had worked so hard in rehab to be able to be signed off to transfer on to the toilet in physio and when I finally got the okay to try, I cried when I realised my spasms would make it impossible for me to do a catheter on the toilet. I tried to go to an entertainment venue and I cried when I was told I wasn’t allowed to participate because I was in a wheelchair. I had been a cheerleader for 5 years and I cried when I missed my first cheerleading national competition because I was in rehab. I also cried when I had to say goodbye to everyone at the rehab and enter the real world, I was going to miss them.

It is my choice to focus on all the good things this injury has brought me, and I truly believe I’m living my best life.  I’m not ashamed to say I cried because being paraplegic is not easy and has its challenges but I can’t deny that it has also brought me a whole lot more than I could ever imagine. All the supportive people I have met since the injury is something which I will always be so grateful for, the SCI is a wonderful and understanding community which we are all so lucky to have. I now have the opportunity to bring something new to the sport I love in Australia. I am starting the first para cheerleading team in Australia which will have the opportunity to compete in competitions in Australia and against other para cheerleading teams in America. I now have a new perspective on life and am not afraid to chase after my dreams, there’s something about almost dying that gives one the determination to prevent anything holding one back. I am genuinely so excited about my life and all the things I am going to achieve.