On the 11th January 2020, I was hiking in New Zealand when I was squashed by a falling tree branch. It left me with 20 broken bones - skull, jaw, clavicle, humerus, 6 x ribs, wrist, hand and ankle - as well as 3 broken vertebrae. Unfortunately, one of those vertebra had completely burst, causing pieces of bone to impact my spinal cord leaving me with a spinal cord injury. I don’t remember much of the first 4 days that followed which included multiple emergency surgeries, a lot of Ketamine induced hallucinations and one beautiful ICU proposal (I said yes!).
After 2 weeks, I was flown home by Medical Rescue to the Austin Hospital Spinal Unit in Melbourne. When stable, I was shipped out to the Royal Talbot Spinal Rehab where I spent the next 3 months. I’ll never forget the day I arrived at the Talbot. I was hoisted from bed into a wheelchair and pushed into a room full of other patients in wheelchairs. It was the first time I actually processed I had a SCI. I was so shocked I lasted a whole 5 minutes before asking to go back to my room, mainly so I could cry, but also because I’d pooped my pants for the third time that day. The first month there I went only 5 days without crying over something (yes, I counted). Some days I cried because I was sad, I’d lost my independence for even the littlest tasks, like rolling over in bed or going to the toilet. Some days it was because they gave me mash potato for the 23rd day in a row (yes, I counted that too!).
It wasn’t all bad though. I began to really enjoy the challenges of Physio and OT sessions and soon enough started ticking off goals to become independent again. I also made friends with other patients and their families. They were genuinely good people whose injuries were far more serious then mine. Watching them go through their journeys and adjusting to life in a chair was hard.
Now my legs are back moving and getting stronger, I feel I have to make good use of them. Come December 2020, I plan to jump back on my bike and ride from my home in Cockatoo, Victoria, to Canberra via the hilliest route I can find. Almost 1000 km and over 12,000 m of elevation will certainly prove a challenge for this one-armed giraffe. As well as just surviving this ride, my goal is to raise $10,000 for SpinalCure Australia. These guys are funding some serious research into finding a cure for Spinal Cord Injuries and they're getting close! Any donation, big or small, would be greatly appreciated!
- Cheeta Beanies
- Clare Liew
- Karen Quagliata