Life was good. I had my first paid
job, my learners licence and was studying a dual arts/law degree at
university. Then, one day, disaster suddenly struck.
I'd been working late one night, and when I returned home I'd been
greeted by a phone call from my ecstatic aunty. "I'm pregnant, I'm
pregnant, I'm pregnant!" she'd shrieked down the phone. My mother
and I had both been overjoyed for her, because my aunty was already
forty-two, suffered two miscarriages and tried IVF once without
success. All she'd ever wanted in this life was to become a mother,
and now it looked as if the dream would finally become true for
her. However, having to work the early shift next morning, I'd
merely congratulated my aunty on this incredible news then promised
to ring her again tomorrow and talk about it in more detail.
When I woke up the next morning I had developed a massive
headache. My mother handed me two Panadol with a glass of water and
told me, "Go upstairs and sit over the loo for a while. I'll come
upstairs after ten minutes, and if you're feeling better, I'll
drive you to work. However, if you're still feeling dreadful, I'll
call you in sick."
Ten minutes later, my mother entered the upstairs bathroom, only
to find me slumped kneeling by the toilet seat, vomiting violently
into the toilet bowl. Being a registered nurse, she knew that
something was disastrously wrong and rushed to call an ambulance.
At first, the call went unheeded, the receiver believing it to be
no big deal, but my mother rang for the ambulance a second time,
and finally they arrived, taking me to the closest hospital, the
QE2. Back then, my mother already knew that something was
disastrously wrong, because I wasn't able to descend the stairs
myself; instead, the paramedics placed me in a chair and carried me
A scan at the hospital revealed the worst. "Your daughter has a
brain tumour," the doctor reported to my shocked mother.
I was sent back home for one week to await the operation, but on
that fateful morning, hiked upstairs to my bedroom with my
favourite teddy bear and lay down briefly on my bed, telling my
mother I had to do this one more time, just in case something went
so terribly wrong during the operation.
At the hospital I underwent the first procedure, the removal of
the brain tumour. Scans revealed the brain tumour to be mostly
benign, meaning I wouldn't need to undergo any chemotherapy or
radiotherapy. The second operation called for the insertion of a
shunt, which functioned to drain all the excess brain fluids from
my brain down into my abdomen. However the drain wasn't permanent,
and required replacing after two weeks. That's when things
turned pear-shaped. Instead of successfully replacing the shunt,
the neurosurgeon somehow grazed the tumour site with it, causing a
massive bleed and thus giving me a stroke.
The doctors moved me into ICU and pumped me full of morphine,
which resulted in me being covered with a rash! The neurosurgeon
tried unsuccessfully twice more to replace the drain inside my
brain. Finally, another neurosurgeon stepped in to do the job and I
was finally set on the path to recovery, although my mother was
left distraught with the doctor's prediction: "Your daughter will
never walk again. At the very most, she will only transfer from the
car into a wheelchair, then from her wheelchair back into the
Around May of 2007, I was released to the Brain Injury
Rehabilitation Unit (BIRU) at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Initially I would sleep all day, but soon got into the daily
routine of the ward. I had physiotherapy everyday, on account that
I needed to learn how to walk again. Occupational therapy I had
three to four times per week, where I learnt how to use my left arm
and hand in a functional way again. Believe me, I was ridiculously
grateful that I was naturally right handed and didn't need to learn
how to write again! Thankfully I retained my gift of the gab
so only had speech pathology once or twice a week, often doing
comprehension programs on the computer.
Come 2008, I was still there. Small wonder then that my nickname
for that place became the 'insane asylum'!
2008 was the year I turned twenty one, an important milestone in
the life of every Australian. I wanted to spend my twenty first
birthday out of the hospital; no, I DEMANDED that I was let
out! Thankfully, the hospital saw reason and I enjoyed my
twenty-first birthday at home, surrounded by my parents and
After that, I was required to live in the Unit for a further two
months, but was finally released on23rd May, 2008. You can imagine
my jubilation as I drove my electric wheelchair out of the front
doors for the last time. My date of admission to date of release
was a staggering one year, three months and twenty days. "FREEDOM!"
I shouted as I left, to the laughter of the nurses behind me.
Life hasn't been easy for me in the seven years since I've been
out of the 'insane asylum'. I do gruelling physio four times a
week, acupuncture once, plus other activities my mother demands my
participation in. There are days when I simply don't want to get
up, but from somewhere I summon up the resolve to endure through
Oh, and remember how my aunty fell pregnant the night before my
life-ruining brain tumour? I am now the cousin of a super-smart
seven year old little boy! About two years ago, when I rang him one
morning, he told me, "It's raining today. Very cloudy." I answered
him, "You should come over to Australia to visit me! The sun's out
shining brightly today!" In all innocence, the adorable kid asks
me, "Why did you steal our sun, cousin Em? Where did you put it?"
Believe me, I nearly died laughing!
Live your life to the fullest, everyone, and never give up!