Carol Nicolson has had many jobs — working in hospitality as a waitress, a cook and a welfare worker in Broken Hill, in far west New South Wales.
But it wasn't until becoming an aged care worker that she found her real calling in life.
Then a workplace injury at the hands of a dementia patient left her with her own disability, and heartbroken, she was forced to leave the career she loved.
"I got injured from one of my residents … he pulled on my arm the wrong way and detached the shoulder muscle and I had to have surgery," she said.
Carol was working in the dementia ward at the Bupa Nursing Home in the regional Victorian town of Mildura.
On that day, she said nurses were short-staffed as usual.
"I was put on one-on-one with this gentleman who was having behaviour issues during the day," she said.
"He wanted to get up and wander out of his room, so I went with him. When I went to grab his dinner, he had hold of my hand and I could see his other hand coming up.
"He was ready to swipe me, so I just sort of threw his plate onto the bench to protect myself and that's when he yanked on my arm, and I started seeing stars."
Carol underwent two rounds of surgery to fix her shoulder. During the second surgery, she suffered from complications with the general anaesthetic that meant she did not wake up.
"I had one lot of surgery in 2017… it still wasn't fixed so in 2018 I went in to have more surgery … unfortunately, I did not wake from that surgery."
"I was put onto life support and flown to Melbourne, I'm very lucky to be here."
The move to disability work
While the injury left Ms Nicolson without the full function of her shoulder, the incident during her second surgery left her with a neurological function disorder that affects her memory.
"I did not blame the person for the injury, that person had dementia. He didn't know what he was doing and if he knew what he'd done he would have been very upset, he is a gorgeous man."
"It's just one of the risks you take when you take on nursing in that space."
After the incident, Carol immediately began looking for a job where she could still help others in a community support role — and found disability work.
"In aged care, you're preparing for their end of life, you're making everyday count for them to live life to their fullest."
"Whereas in disability you're teaching them how to live life and how to live independently within the community."
Broken Hill a base for career pathways
Carol said living in and working in Broken Hill meant she was able to find a career path that she loved doing.
"It's given me a feel of what each industry is like, and Broken Hill has been my base for finding my career path.
"Broken Hill is a great learning centre because it's small and we're community-based we can learn a lot from each other."
Though her pathway to disability wasn't without turmoil, Carol is sure she will work in disability for the rest of her life.
"I've found my stomping ground and I'm going to be here for a while now," she said.