It's usually a happy thing to be discharged from the hospital.
It usually means you have your health back, you get to go home, you get to live your life and everything is ok again.
But for me, leaving the hospital meant having to spend the next 6 months in a slightly different institution call 'Moorong rehabilitation centre'.
I looked up "Moorong".
It means "Place of Death" in aboriginal language.
It was December 2002, the world was getting ready for Christmas. I packed my bag and got on a rehab centre minibus where it dropped me off in front of this really dark federation style, red brick house. The house glowed a frighteningly blue hue in the twilight that still haunts me today when I think about it.
This was going to be my home for the next 6 months.
I flicked my hair back, cleared my throat, took a deep breath and went up the ramp.
By now I was meant to have finished my honours degree and be on my way to South America. Instead I watched the nurse unpack my bag in silence, then feed me a leftover curried egg sandwich.
I sat there quietly. I couldn't move my arms to do either of those things myself.
A scary realisation dawned on me.
"I may never be able to do anything myself, ever, ever again."
That night, two nurses came and put me to bed. I stared at the ceiling until dawn. The night was long, I didn't know how long, except when the nurses came into my room every 2 hours to turn me because I couldn't turn myself.
That was the same ceiling I stared at for all those sleepless nights, Christmas, new year, Easter, then my 23rd birthday.
Summer went and winter came, the falling leaves in the courtyard reminded me of time passing while everything in my life just froze.
Dignity was a luxury there. With no movement below my shoulders, nurses were my hands.
They did everything for me from getting in and out of bed to in and out of clothes, eating, grooming, answering the phone...
While in the hospital, I was naive enough to tell myself that everyone needs nursing help in hospital, but as time went on in rehab, it became more and more frightening:
“Is this it?”
“Is this how I have to live the rest of my life?”
“But… I'm only 23!”
Moorong, The Place of Death. You die or you live on!