Recovering from a Spinal Cord Injury


Who am I? I’m probably the
most physical person that I know. I’m someone who just fizzes
about life. I wake up excited in the morning about
what the day holds. I’m like an Eveready bunny.
That changed in a moment when I dived off my surfboard
and broke my neck. I’m currently in the Auckland spinal unit,
and I’ve been here for a week. I’m paralyzed from my necklace
down. I have limited hand movement. I have no ability to go to the toilet,
to get dressed, to do anything that is normal, so everything is
being rewritten, and there’s a new track for the way my life rolls out. My little girl Lola, she is 3 1/2. She talks to me a lot about
how she doesn’t like that I’m broken, and wants to make me better.
She says “if I give you good food,” “and if I look after you, you can
get better, and we can” “ride our bike again.” I’m just
going to do everything I can to get back to the kind of life
that we had together before. We can’t go too fast down here,
because mum’s driving is not that good yet. I’m a sociologist. I’ve just finished
my Master’s at university, and I’m heading for a PhD. I have
a gorgeous partner called Gemma. She gate-crashed, with a bunch
of her mates, my 30th birthday party. We decided, actually, we
kind of liked each other. $$ [Amanda Lowry] I had a husband at the time
and she had a boyfriend at the time, and we decided, “let’s just not
have them anymore.” So we’ve been together for 11 years.
Gemma had been supporting me through university previous to
me having Lola, and the plan was, the minute I finished my Master’s,
she was going to have a baby. I would then begin working, and
she would be the one who would be the carer of our kids. Look at her. Oh my Gosh.
She’s smiling. Oh my Gosh. Look at her. Where’s your mama? Look at you,
cute baby. Oh my gosh. I broke my neck when the baby
was 6 days old, and so Gemma hasn’t really had much time to enjoy
being a mama, just to be able to sit still and hold Ziggy
and just be looked after and to be nurtured, which was
everything I wanted for her. $$ [Gemma Holroyd] I’d just come out of hospital 2 days
earlier from the C-section, and was just getting used to the
whole new baby, and then Amanda had the accident, so it was that
sudden gain of a child, loss of a parent, and suddenly being
there to handle Lola and Ziggy on my own. So it was all very
huge, scary, and not knowing what would happen to Amanda. [baby crying] I can’t pick her up. I can’t
comfort her, and that breaks my heart. There you are. You reckon? Does it work? [baby noises] This is the first time I’ve
held her like this. You get scared that it’s just
going to be me raising Ziggy, but when I see bits like this, I know
Amanda’s going to be involved too. You have to pick up and you
have to keep going, because Amanda’s awesome, and we’re
awesome together, and the kids need their mums, both of them.
So it’ll be different, but it’ll be cool, and we’ll work it out. It’s just
crap at the moment. [laughter] Let me see. No, more than that. It’s probably a 2-hour mission
from waking up to being ready to go anywhere. The mission of
eating. It does your head in, just needing so much help. I can’t cut my
toast. I can’t spread things. And that’s yet, but right now,
I’m completely dependent on other people’s help
for everything. If I look at a program I go, right, what
have I got to do to get strong so I can get out of here,
so I can get back home. Most of us have quite full
work routines, so each day you’re doing upper-limb class and physiotherapy,
and for me, hand class, so I have at least 5 or 6 hours
of commitment every day. Give me a hug. I’ve got you. This being moved less than a
meter, it blows me away that I need another person to strap me
into a hoist to get from A to B. It’s mind-blowing. I never
have known this world. So you’re going to go up
and then onto the part of the bed.. Yep, and I’m going to be
behind you, so when you land… Alright. You’ve got that support from behind. I need to be able to lift myself,
all 72 kilos of me, which currently has as much strength and
stability as a newborn baby. I need to find my center in all of that
jelly feeling of no core and no balance. I need to find a balance point
in there and move myself from A to B, which is frightening. It’s going
to be a big drop forward if I make a mistake. I can’t risking myself. Perfect. Got you. For me this is like sitting on a Swiss
ball with your feet off the ground, so absolutely wobbly. So I what I want you to do is,
I’m going to be in front. Just relax. Just relax your arms. Okay? Yeah. That’s weird. I was alright,
and then I’m not. That’s really strange. Okay, everything’s
going back to normal now. Being upright is quite difficult
in the morning. They’ve had to give me drugs because I have
no stomach muscles to keep my blood pressure up. I have
naturally really low blood pressure and I was really fit, and then
you chuck a spinal injury on there and then you have scary
blood pressure. That means every time you sit up, you just want to pass out. I want it to be nice and controlled rather than just throwing yourself into it. Funny, right? Down to the right…nice
strong left. Yes, good. Well done. Use those legs. Good. Got you. Well done. Right, cool. Look, I’m sitting up
by myself for the first time since I’ve been here. Although
it’s probably a little bit weird-looking, it actually feels really
nice. I feel human. For me, it’s about getting home
and being able to be part of the family in the way I was. I was a chef
before, and I do all the food and I garden and that’s my role.
I need to get back to that, so I got to find a way to make that work,
because I love it and it makes me happy and it makes my family happy
and it’s my job. And then I got to do a PHD so,
you know, got stuff to do. The fact that I so want this and
I’m so focused on this, that’s the way it’s going to work. I think
a bad attitude would probably be the only thing that would stop you. Eleven, 12, I’ll do 15. This might look really slow
to you. I’m actually getting faster, and I’m getting better at it, and
my hands are getting stronger and used to holding these things.
I will do this 1,000 times a day if it means that when I get home
that I can be a productive member of my family and not a drag. We’re going on an adventure baby It was our first time! This is the
first time I’ve been out of here. Yay. It’s huge. You realize how broken you are
when it requires a van with a back-end loader and 2 people
to drive you to the gardens. That would be bad. Did I eat too much lunch? Am I too heavy? Alright. Back on again. I can’t
see the wheels. Okay cool. Yeah, cars were always about
freedom, and now there’s 3 people required to get me in one.
Little bit distressing. The lack of control will be
the hard bit for her. She’s normally the one who drives. She’s
the leader. She does it. Freedom. Freedom in
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, yeah. Can I chase you? Jump down
and I’ll chase you? See how fast I can go, eh? Get ready, set. Go! Go! It’s quite upsetting, although
it’s lovely to be out, it’s upsetting. I can’t catch my girl, I can’t
throw her over my shoulder. I have to work really hard
to be more.
I can’t come, bub. There’s stuff that I need to
be aware of that I would never have thought twice about: steepness
of anything. I just have to be careful now. It’s odd, because
I was 6′ in real life, or just under, but there’s a way of engaging
with the world when you’re big and strong and tall, and now
I’m on wheels and I’m motorized, and I don’t quite know where
to put it, because I had a great life, and I think I have a great life
this way too, but it’s going to be a different life. There’s probably more anger
than she lets on to people, and she’s sad. She’s gutted. In terms of the realization of
where you’re at, the adrenaline starts to wear off and it’s almost
like a leaf floating down from the sky. You have this kind of feeling,
woop, woop, woop, and reality sinks in quite slowly, and
all of a sudden, you go, “huh, so this is it.” [baby noises] Good girl. That’s it. Good eating. Lola and I talk quite a bit about
me being broken and what that means for her and what the prognosis is
when I go home. We talk about what happened on the day,
because she was at the beach, when I broke my neck, which
was really traumatic for her. I could hear her in the background
crying when I was lying there, and she was obviously really upset. [baby talking] Up, up, and away? [baby talking] Press the down one. Just wait a minute. Lola, do you remember where
mama broke herself? At the beach. It was pretty dumb, eh. No, sad. You were sad, weren’t you?
And I was sad too. You’re going to help mama get better. Hold on. Okay. My girls have uprooted their life
to come up here and are currently staying with some friends, and
we’re trying to get Lola into a kindi we’re trying to get
some normality because the reality is, I’m going to be here for at least
2-3 months. Home is this gorgeous little place in Tauranga and
Gemma and I have owned it for maybe 7 years. We’re obviously intending
to stay in beautiful Tauranga and have lovely times
there raising little baby, and then all of a sudden
Gemma has to uproot our whole life and come up to Auckland. Our house needs changing,
but do we look at somewhere else because we lose all our garden,
we lose what we love about that home? It’s not just that whole bigness
of what’s happened to Amanda; it’s what’s happened to all of us.
It’s impacted on Lola, on Ziggy, and we’re not going to go back
to what we were. It’s too big at the moment. You feel pulled
in every single direction, so I need to protect me and
make sure that I can hold the family together still and I have that ability. [How did it go babe?
All good hugs love xx] So each of the PT sessions now
is purely focused on getting my transfers, because when I leave this ward,
I never, never, never, never, never want to see a hoist again.
A hoist, for me, is dehumanizing. Gemma needs to learn how to
hoist me from my wheelchair to the bed, to learn how to
do that safely, so that’s kind of exciting. At least we don’t need anybody
else, we don’t need a carer; we just need her. That’s why I never want to see
one of these again when I leave. So what’s the plan then girls?
Bring it on. Who’s your daddy? Go, go, go. Good. I didn’t even help
you with that one. Now I’m stuck. Just take your time. Every day it’s just moving forward.
I don’t like this, but I’m going to find a way to make it everything
it can be, and it means that we’re going to have a really full
life, when I get home. Good. Got to get that hand under,
and you want to push…. Good. Got you. Even from last week, this is just
way better, better strength. I could effectively put socks on,
or trousers on. But it might take some time. It’s not like
knowing before. You actually need to feel it, and it doesn’t make sense
to your head, because there’s no response from your
body. So you actually have to… this is an intellectual
journey more than anything. Tonight is my first overnight leave
from the spinal unit and from the hospital since I had my accident,
and that’s hugely significant for me and Gemma as a family,
because we haven’t spent any time together alone since
I hurt myself, so that comes with a whole lot of joy, but it also comes
with a whole lot of sadness, because last time I was with them
I wasn’t broken. So I’m nervous. I need to not be too sad for her.
I need to also keep it real, like, we have a right to be sad about this,
but we also have to be happy that I’m making progress. But my
heart hurts at the moment, because I don’t want to be in a wheelchair. [baby talking] Wait, wait, wait. No, no, no, no, no.
Brakes on. Wait, dear. Let him show you. Go. Alright. Alright. I think it was a real eye-opener in
the reality of what our life is going to be like when we get home,
how skilled we have to be in order to manage this. That red… Now I’m gonna…you lean forward
into me. I’ve got you. Okay? Okay, have to help me push, cause
the bed’s quite low. Push! Once she’s on the bed and we’re
all sat together watching telly, it’ll be like normal. There won’t be
the barrier of a chair. There won’t be that difference, and it’s going to
be nice for me to be able to actually just be able
to touch and be there. We can’t even put the TV on. – That’s my fizzy drink over there – That’s your fizzy drink
over there, and this is normal. This is normal. Gonna use this yellow banana board,
and we’re going to assist you to transfer yourself across onto
the plinth and then back into your wheelchair. Cool. And this is working towards your
goal to being more independent. Not…completely. Completely independent, yes. So try the same thing again. Into me. I’ve got you. Good. That’s it. Take your time. Put a hand on the board now? Yep. Two, three. That was all you that time. That wasn’t us.
So yep, just up there for a moment. You know, you can lean on things. You’re not in any major rush here.
Then you just take your time to get yourself back. Yeah, that’s it.
I know it’s really scary to come that far forward, but that is going
to be where your balance is now, not back here anymore.
It’s going to be over here. You can keep going if you want.
You’re nearly there. Two. One, two, three. Two stages. Make it look easy
Amanda. [laughter] That’s cool. I’m learning how to use this crazy
body to get me from A to B, so bring it on. It’s all about
the freedom, really. She’s been just so driven and
motivated and kept us all on our toes, really, because she sort of kept
wanting to do more, and more, and more, and as much as we tell her
to do she always wanted to be challenged further. I need to own it. I need to say
this is how I look. I need to start to become comfortable with this
physical reality. It’s not confronting, but it’s quite odd,
and I don’t know quite how I feel about it yet. I think I still look
like me, so that’s the main bit, but it is quite challenging. She’ll tell you, “if I died, you would
have mourned for a bit,” “but you would have got on. Now
you’ve got to live with me like this.” Is it enough? It’s not good enough
for her. She’s not happy with it, so she’s going to do everything
to change that situation. As everyone says, if anyone’s
going to get up and walk, it will be her. The big thing is,
she wants a miracle. She wants to walk. She doesn’t want to
stay like this. She’s not going to. You want Amanda to feel useful,
not just this person or this object that gets put into bed, sat around.
You want her to be involved. Got four days left at the unit now
and there’s this mixed emotion of wanting to get out in the world
but also being really afraid of what that means, because
we’re normal in here, and there’s tons of us, and you’ve got a
community, and there’s a heap of support, so mixed emotions about how
I feel about going home. You get, not kicked out of here… Supposedly by about 1, and we don’t
know how to collapse the wheelchair. Okay, collapse wheelchair. Got to remember that. What worries me is I’m just
not sure who are the providers. I need to feel safe, and I need it
to go okay, and I need there to not be dramas, because that’s
horrible, and it needs to work in with our family, because although
these people are just caring for me, they have to get on with us.
They have to become kind of like part of our family because
the personal nature of what they’re doing. The big thing I’m sort of feeling is
the fact that when we’ve come back before after weekends, there’s been
someone else to check you. There’s been that backup if I’ve
missed anything. Now I’m like, who else checks for bed sores?
Is it all my responsibility? It’s just me and that scares me a bit. The home space feels quite volatile
because there’s all these different agencies involved, so I
think that transition part for me feels frightening. I’m a little bit
nervous of it. I’m excited and I’m nervous. Where’s my baby? Where’s my
baby? Is she hiding? [laughter] I missed you so much. I need to
have a cuddle. I missed you so much. What are we doing today, baby? Going home. And are you excited about that? Yes. But when we get home, we’re
going to a new house, aren’t we? Are you excited? Yes. We’re going back to a rental property
while we decide what we’re going to do with our house and if it’s
worth modifying it or if we try and build, or…there’s a lot of…
we won’t be able to answer those questions until we have seen what
it’s like for me to be like this in our world. Empty room now. That’s weird,
but it’s good. Someone else can come now. I can go home.
Much better idea. You go well. Lovely, lovely, lovely to meet you. You too. Take care. Get well. See you. Take care. Give me your hat. You were a vital part of my
time here. You know that, eh? Thank you. Bye. Farewell. Mum, I’m hungry. You’re hungry? You should have
eaten some more cupcakes. I will never love this way of being.
I will never accept it. But what I will do is I will learn to
be brilliant with it, and I’m going to grow with this and I’m going to
do everything I can to be really good with this. Aroha nui, eh?

13 Comments

  1. All the best for your recovery Amanda. I'm amazed and at awe in what you are doing and going through. I'm sure that with whatya going through everyday that you can imagine yourself up on your feet again dancing. Never give up HOPE. I will look forward to seeing or hearing more about your recovery…

  2. She's badass! If ever there was someone who could deal with a SCI, it's her. Love her! Now let's get her playing some wheelchair rugby!

  3. Fantastic story. I have things to do and I'm running behind but I couldn't stop watching this video. So many emotions going on here. Your family is beautiful and I was rooting for you all the way. Each accomplishment was met with cheers and c'mon dear lady, push, push! I want you to succeed. Greetings from America 💞

  4. I went through mostly some of the same things with my neck injury from a gun shot wound by in 1997. I raised my son as a disabled single parent i thought taking care of myself but raising a child too boy was it hard we made it though he's almost 22 years old. I just wanted to say it's a really hard struggle to be able to get back probably not all the way back but being able to care for yourself is the best thing ever. I been in a wheelchair 21 years in June this year im still single taking care of myself and after all this time i still feel broken. If you guys are still in touch with Amanda tell her and the people who shared their beautiful stories to hang in there they can get more independent with hard work.

  5. Here is a interview with Amanda she did in 2018. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12051989

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