EMMA Carey has been called 'the girl who fell from the sky' after crashing to earth in a freak skydiving accident.
On June 9 2013, Emma went tandem skydiving in Switzerland but when the ropes for the main chute and the safety chute tangled around her instructor's neck, he lost consciousness and the pair plummeted to the ground.
She fractured her back, her L1 vertebrae and her pelvis.
Four years on, the Burleigh local chats to education editor Emily Selleck about overcoming adversity.
Q: Tell me about the date you have tattooed on your arm: June 9, 2013.
It is the date that completely changed my life and in a way I became a totally different person. I was in a really bad skydiving accident while I was on holidays in Europe and became a paraplegic. I have been indescribably lucky and regained the ability to walk again but as you can imagine, the whole experience taught me a lot and changed my entire perspective on life. A lot of people thought it was odd that I would want such a 'bad' date tattooed onto me forever, but the way I see it is that it is the date I could have died but didn't. It is the date I realised my love for life and became the person I am today. I now call it my re-birthday. It is also a gentle reminder that every day I am on this earth after June 9 is a blessing.
Q: How did you handle the news that you may never walk again?
It was horrible. I have always been such an active and sporty person, so the prospect of never being able to do all of the things which brought me happiness was heart breaking. I remember thinking that it wasn't possible to live a happy life without the use of my legs - obviously I don't think way that anymore - but I remember being more upset that I would never feel happiness again, rather than upset that I would never use my legs again.
Q: What are the biggest physical challenges you've faced since getting out of hospital?
I think the biggest challenge for me was learning to adapt and create an entirely different new life for myself. I got home from hospital 4 months after my accident and realised that every single aspect of my old life had changed. I could no longer walk around the house I used to live in, some of the friends I used to have weren't there for me, I wheeled past the streets where I used to run, I couldn't go back to work: every part of my life had changed and I had to find a way to be OK with that. Learning how to find new things which brought me happiness and contentment was hard to do, because for 20 years of my life I had always just turned to sport and moving my body. I learnt a lot from it though because it taught me not to rely on certain things for happiness and that I had to find it within myself. That way it could never be taken away.
Q: You made the move from Canberra to the Gold Coast. What do you love about the lifestyle here?
I moved to the Gold Coast almost 3 years ago now. After my accident, I really just wanted to have a fresh start and create a new life somewhere. I have always loved the ocean and warm weather, so I thought the Gold Coast would be the perfect fit for me and I was definitely right. I love the nature, the people, the atmosphere, the chilled lifestyle, the weather … I can't imagine ever wanting to live anywhere else.
Q: Tell me how your social media following has grown over the past four years
I started sharing my story on social media because I have learnt so much from my accident and it has changed my life in so many positive ways, so I would love if other people could learn from my experience. I want other people to be able to take the lessons I've learnt from having a near-death experience, without having to go through the horrible parts.
My following has slowly grown over the past few years and I have found that the more raw and honest I write, the more people respect and respond to my words. Recently I have starting writing more about some of the problems I face living with a spinal cord injury and I love having a platform to be able to raise awareness for some of the everyday struggles we go through that not many people would know about.
Q: What sort of messages do you get from your social media followers?
A lot of the messages I receive are from people telling me about their own stories. I think because I am so open on social media, people feel comfortable in being honest and open with me about their own struggles. I have heard a lot of extremely touching, sad, happy, beautiful, heartbreaking stories over the past few years and I guess my aim is the show people that it is possible to create an amazing life for yourself even if you've experienced something horrible.
Q: Tell me about your role with SIP week (Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week) this year.
This is actually the first year I had heard about SIP week and when I found out about it I was so excited and thought it was an incredible idea. One of my main aims is to spread awareness for spinal cord injuries and the struggles people deal with every day and I think that this is an amazing way to do that. I will be taking part in SIP week with my family and friends at home and I will also be sharing the message with my Instagram followers and hopefully inspiring others to join in as well.
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