Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reflecting Over the Last 8 Months - A note from Rhiannon Tracey-Bradford

8 Months and 18 days ago my life changed dramatically. While I lay in a hospital bed in a foreign country staring at the ceiling, I wondered what the rest of my life would hold for me. After hearing the words “Miss Tracey, there is a large possibility you may never walk again” I honestly wondered if there was a purpose in even living? I was constantly reminded by my loved ones, just how lucky I was to be alive, but honestly, who wants to live their lives watching flies mate on the ceiling?

8 Months ago I was in the land of paradise, Bali. Celebrating my best friends 22nd birthday the best way we knew how...Dancing & laughing! We had been on a cruise, Rebecca, my mum Shazza and myself and we were having the time of our lives, EVERYTHING seemed PERFECT! We had met some fabulous people that we were going to continue the party with, pub crawling and pool crawling! We had gone back to our new friend’s hotel to cool off in the pool and prepare ourselves for the next part of the celebration! While everyone jumped in the pool, I being the pro swimmer dived in gracefully...or not! Little did I know I was about to embark on the BIGGEST journey of my life! The next two and a half weeks were touch and go. I had broken my neck, become completely paralysed, and survived one of Bali’s biggest earth quakes, and survived pneumonia and two collapsed lungs. Talk about a holiday I’ll never forget! I’m not going to get into full detail about everything that happened whilst under the care of the Bali medical team, but let’s just say THANK GOD for travel insurance! Best 100 bucks I’ve ever spent!

Anyway as most of you know I spent 2 weeks in the ICU unit at the Austin hospital, having two surgeries to correct the one I had in Bali, and then spent another couple of weeks in the spinal ward. I was constantly reminded by the doctors that I had to prepare myself for the worst case scenario, that the rest of my life would be spent in a wheel chair...mind you exactly one month from the date of my last surgery I was meant to be celebrating my 21st birthday!

My family and friends bundled together and couldn’t be more supportive! THEY were the ones reminding me that I AM RHIANNON TRACEY, AND IM A FIGHTER...living life in a wheel chair? PFFFFTT NOT GONNA HAPPEN! With their help...I WILL OVERCOME THIS!

Thankfully god had blessed me with two angels that would become more than just my parents, my strength, my hope and my determination! I had two of the world’s best parents! My mum and my step father or should I refer to them as super mum and super dad? I think that is definitely more suitable? The next six months of my life were spent in Royal Talbot, or Prison as I would call it! With constant arguments and disagreements with the staff as we WOULD NOT accept that the only option for me was to learn how to do tasks while being wheelchair bound. There really had to be more to life! Like come on... I was just 21, I was working my dream job, just brought a new car and had that taken away from me. Not to mention that my boyfriend left me as he couldn’t handle having a girlfriend he couldn’t show off to his mates as I was the re bound from his ex wife, oh and I was newly disabled! Agghh could things get any worse? Well they could for him.... he had to have my name that had literally just been tattooed onto his forearm covered as he had run back to his ex... Pffttt Did you honestly think this would be it for me? HELL NO! I would spend every moment that I wasn’t sleeping, working hard to rid my life from this wheel chair!

As did my birthday, Christmas and Easter, people would come and go. I would not only learn how to walk again, but learn the true values of friendship and family. I would reconnect with family that I had lost contact while growing up and with the help of these people who had also joined forces with my amazing friends, they would raise the funds to get me to the world best treatment centre, Project Walk...and here I am!

It has been 8 months and 18 days. Yes my worst enemy (the wheel chair) is still a big part of my life but I have recently been introduced to another piece of equipment that I didn’t expect to be using until at least my 70’s or 80’s...A walking frame! Notice the word WALKING in that sentence?

Yes to all you Indonesian and Australian doctors that said it wouldn’t be possible! I was Rhiannon Tracey, I am now RHIANNON TRACEY – BRADFORD (during this process I learnt my relationship with my biological father was a pointless one and I took on my step fathers surname), I can now walk very short distances without someone having to physically move my feet for me and it doesn’t stop here!

It is week four of Project Walk and I have some of the words BEST people on my side. With their help, this will soon all just be a bad dream. One that will never be forgotten but one I will be happy to wake up from.

I will use this journey to help others out there remember, NO ONE AND I MEAN NO ONE can tell you what your life has to be like, YOU have the power to change your future and make it a better one!

Fight for the things you believe in, and don’t ever stop! Until next time Rhiannon THE WALKING QUAD!

P.S Due to it almost being midnight here in San Diego and the fact that I have been up since 6am, some sentences may not make sense...for that I apologise, but you get my drift!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ways to give, without opening your wallet.

Hi All,

My name is Rebecca Konstatzky and I am the Fundraising Coordinator for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia. As the Fundraising Coordinator, you’d think that I’d be running up and down the halls of Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) screaming “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”. But giving is not all about flashing the cash, despite what Cuba Gooding Jnr’s character in Jerry McGuire says.

I don’t know about the rest of the community out there, but my money is precious. Don’t get me wrong, I am not poverty stricken. I can afford to live in a nice apartment, buy new clothes, put food on the table and pay my bills; but by the end of the month I don’t have a lot left over. So when I donate to a cause or charity I am quite discerning. Who do they help? Does it fit in with my values? Where does the money go? And how much of it goes to where they say it is going to?

I know from my experience working for a charity, that every dollar donated counts. No matter how large or small the donation, it really does make a difference. But donating is not just about the difference it makes to the organisation you are giving to or the people they are helping; it’s a little more selfish than that. It’s about the difference it makes to us as individuals who are doing the giving. Giving a gift is not just about the receiving experience, it’s about the experience, emotion and value that you get out of giving it in the first place.

I recently donated my time for a friend’s small not-for-profit organisation that put on a gala ball. I gave up one night of my life to manage their volunteers, but what I got in return was so much more than I could have ever expected. Now, this blog is not about the value of volunteering (as valuable as it is), but about a giving of a different kind.

I recently came across a website called the ‘Give List’. It listed 71 different ways to give without getting out your wallet. This appealed to me. For me, I love the feeling of giving my time and expertise to a charity or non-profit. I instantly get to see how I have made a difference and I gain an experience that I am richer for. Going through this list of giving, I realised that there is so much more I can do to really make a difference than just giving time or cash. So below I have picked out a few that might help SCIA or someone with a spinal cord injury. For the full list see the Give List website

Giving without getting out your wallet.

  • Running in a marathon or fun run? Do it for a charity and get your friends, family and work colleagues to sponsor you. (We have a team in the City 2 Surf called the Winning Wheelers. Join the team or support the cause at www.everydayhero.com.au/winning_wheelers_c2s )
  • Have too many frequent flier points? Donate them to a family so that they may have respite from caring for their injured loved one.
  • If your favorite charity has a blog, a Facebook page, or some other form of social networking – leave a comment or post on their wall, invite your friends to like them or just send them an email telling them what you love about that organisation (We have 2 Facebook fan pages Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and Walk On).
  • Have season tickets to sporting events or the arts. Give a few away to someone with an SCI to help them get out and about.
  • Write a post on your blog in honor of someone you love or a cause that matters to you (like SCIA) and dedicate it.
  • Volunteer your time as a fundraiser, designer, accountant, web developer, board member, mentor, pie baker to a non profit. We always need someone with different skill sets.
  • Record a video about what a cause or charity means to you and publish on YouTube, etc. with links to cause or charity site.
  • Add a community service project to your work conference or event.
  • Add a walkathon or other charity fundraiser to your next conference or event.
  • Magazine junkie? Donate them once you have read them to a hospital family visiting/waiting room.
  • Work for a big corporate company? Get them involved with a non profit to set up work place giving, corporate sponsorship or volunteering days.
  • Include a charity like Spinal Cord Injuries Australia in your will.

So go on, get out there and give with a difference!

Rebecca Konstatzky rkonstatzky@scia.org.au