Mundubbera, QLD, June 2023
Mary: My childhood was 'idealic'. I had a very loving Mum and Dad and 4 older doting brothers, growing up in a nice suburb of Hobart, Tasmania. I always knew my smart, funny, beautiful Mum was unwell but over the years some things got harder and harder for her to do and very sadly it eventuated in her dying. I was only 15. That event was probably the 1st 'major' event.
My first marriage was a  good marriage until it was a bad marriage and it ended in a dramatic way. Despite the love and support of my family I could never tell anyone about my troubled marriage so I was more or less a single mother with 2 beautiful little girls when I was with him.
Everything changed when I got together with Russ. He immediately fell in love with the girls as well and they him. Apart from one miscarriage, things were good. My life was happy. My family were happy. However, I started having severe anxiety attacks in 1995. Of course we didn't know they were panic attacks at first. I went from 52 to 47kg (I looked great!) and eventually I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis which apparently means normally you put ON weight. I got used to taking medication and understood it was not curable but was controllable.
I became pregnant with Josh but developed pre-eclampsia. I was flown to Brisbane and Josh was born by emergency caesarean a tiny 3lbs 3 oz. Russ and I were living at the Ronald McDonald House which was right next to the RBH where Josh was. I used to express breast milk every 4 hours for Josh and every morning Russ would take the precious milk in a little esky and walk to ICU and give it to Josh through a tube. He was kept in ICU for a total of 6 weeks before he could come home. It was just before Christmas 1996.
It was hard to work out a balance between looking after the girls needs and a small baby, it felt like I  was constantly attached to the express machine too. The girls helped me with Josh as much as they could but they were only little. I already suffered with feelings of guilt because I had to miss out on some things to do with their school. Russ was great too when he got home but he had to go to work, it was our only income and he had already missed lots of work when he was in Brisbane with me. Something always had to give because maintaining a happy, healthy family was so important to us. 
I was a very active mum of 3, a wife, a friend and an employee, working in a few different businesses in the area over the years. My last job was as a barista in a local café. 
My life changed very suddenly in September 2006…
I was in a car accident which caused me to go into a coma for a few weeks. The brain injury I sustained means that the left side of my body doesn't listen to my brain. I am now paraplegic and I have been confined to a wheelchair since 2007. I can't reach out with my left arm and my left leg doesn't voluntarily move. It's a total bitch not being able to use my left hand. I have to do EVERYTHING with my right hand unless I move my left hand with my right! It's very frustrating!
The main sacrifice I must make really is my independence as I have to rely on others to help me with personal and mundane things like showering, etc. I can't run around with the grandkids and going away with friends is impossible, unless I have Russ with me. He is not just my husband but my full-time carer as well so he makes all sorts of sacrifices himself. I can't do all things I used to like gardening, etc. I can't do fun stuff like go on 'girl's weekends' because I need too much care and don't always want to ask friends to do that. Besides, going to a club and dancing wouldn't be possible anyway. Stairs are impossible.
It's hard to always have a positive outlook and keep persevering, but the sacrifices I make are worth it because it means my life, although different to what it used to be, is still fulfilling because of the wonderful people I have around me every day.
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