Winter was cold in 2002. On the vastly big and bare campus of the Royal Rehab Centre, stood only a few dwellings, each with a few handfuls of unfortunate souls. It's not until you get in here that you realise the 'Rehab' in 'Royal Rehab Centre' doesn't mean 'getting better', it in fact means 'accepting that you will not’. I was an angry kid. I came in thinking I'd be spending 8 hours a day and more in the gym with physios to get my legs back and walk out of there. Reality was, that’s just not what they do. I was limited to 1 hour a day in the gym to learn how to use the leftover bits of my body to do things I still have the functions to do.
The other 23 hours? Waiting for the next session in the gym. Even so, the gym gave me hope, and amongst all the metal and foams I found solace dreaming of what my body could do in the future. Those were the hopes I wasn't meant to have, battles I was never going to win. They were called ‘False Hopes’, because it was believed a damaged spinal cord doesn’t repair. In order to avoid 'future disappointments' I was repeatedly told that I should be realistic about my prospects. Some people were told once. I had to be told many, many times. Yet, I never learnt. Looking back, they were trying to protect us there, but what good is living if you no longer hope? What good is life if you no longer have tomorrow? Rightly or wrongly, I resented the physios for not helping me work on my legs.
I hated the doctors for wanting to drill my tummy and give me permanent wee bags. I clashed with nurses for pressuring me into taking dozens of pills a day. I despised the OTs for making me use gadgets that drew attention to what I couldn’t do. My days were filled with anger and frustration. I used to aimlessly roam the hills of Royal Rehab in freezing winter wind for hours on end, watching my valuable recovery time slip away.
I felt like standing in the middle of a crowded place, profusely bleeding to death while everyone looked and no one helped. I just wanted to be normal again! At least as normal as I could be. Sitting in a wheelchair was bad enough, why did I want to draw attention to the fact my fingers were not moving and show the world I have a bag of wee on me all the time?
I don't. I won't. And I didn't. 13 years ago, on the hilltop of Royal Rehab campus, was this little girl shivering in the cold with nothing left in life but a glimpse of hope she was desperately trying to clinch onto. 13 years later, as I looked out of my apartment window at the glittering Sydney Harbour and the Opera House in the morning sun, my hubby gave me a goodbye kiss on my neck before going to work.
I closed my laptop after finishing this chapter, now I have to change out of my workout gear after a morning of walking and planking in the gym and head to work myself.
My dear friends, may your dreams lead to reality and reality leads you to everything you ever wanted.