Ausnew Home Care | Living a vibrant life as a person with a disability

Living a vibrant life as a person with a disability (who'll never be a Paralympian)

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My prize-winning moment as a new quadruple amputee was Halloween a few years ago.

Dressing as a zombie bride, the blood stains dripping down my white dress, was the ultimate way for me to embrace my amputations.

Yes the local children probably still have my image burnt into the back of their eyelids, but for me and my young family, it was undoubtedly one of our proudest days.

Woman in costume as zombie bride with bloodied dress and veil. She has no hands or forearms. Fake blood painted on ends of arms. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Mandy lost her hands and feet to sepsis in 2013.(



Together the five of us had come a long, long way.

Losing my hands and feet to sepsis was a massive bummer and although the word 'journey' is banished in our household, the process of recovery has been rather intriguing.

Over the last seven years we have lived through the obvious rebuilding of my body but there has been a significant mental 'journey' as well.

So where is the destination for someone like me?

With all the fun of telling our story through television and radio, I hadn't really worried too much about what my future might look like.

Mandy and husband and daughters smiling at camera while holding up her prosthetic arms.
Mandy with husband Rod and daughters Tess, Isobel and Samantha in 2018.(

Supplied: Mandy McCracken


But now with hubby back at work and the girls all at school, I've found myself sitting at home wondering… what does a person with a newly acquired, significant disability do with themselves to keep living a meaningful and vibrant life?

Become a Paralympian of course.

It has been said to me numerous times and yes — amazingly fit athletes doing extraordinary things is always fabulous to see.

But I'm an overweight, 46-year-old mother-of-three. Wearing the green and gold seems miles away from my world and I don't think blow darts is a Paralympic sport.

So why is becoming a Paralympian always the go-to pep talk for a newly disabled person?

I spoke to Liesl Tesch, seven-time Paralympian, to find the answer.

Wheelchair basketball game in stadium. A woman in a top marked 'Australia' shoots while Japanese players attempt to block.
Leisl Tesch won Paralympic medals in wheelchair basketball and sailing.(

Getty: Adam Pretty 


"When I broke my back, I didn't even know what a Paralympian was. And I didn't think people with wheelchairs had jobs," she told me.

"So when I first wheeled into that stadium of people who were going fast and having fun and had boyfriends, girlfriends, cars, jobs, lives, it was like 'Oh my God, this is actually not going to be too bad'."

Meeting other people who have been through similar experiences is incredibly powerful.

They understand the pain and complexities of rebuilding a new life.

It's also a chance to see the boundaries of your disability — and perhaps, as in Liesl's case, an opportunity to see that you might be setting imaginary limitations on yourself.

But I struggle with the idea of me in Lycra — and what if, like me, sport is the last thing on your mind?

Believing in the future, even when you can't see it

Carol Taylor became a quadriplegic at the age of 34. She was newly married, trying for a baby and enjoying a fast-paced legal career that vanished overnight after a horrific car accident.

I asked her how she rediscovered the vibrancy in her life.

"It's a difficult question to answer. I think everybody with a catastrophic injury will start their journey to recovery from a different place," she said.

"And even though I couldn't see the future, I just had to believe that there was one there."

Carol took years to process what had happened.

A woman in a mottled blue kaftan sits in a wheelchair in a well-lit white room, bookcases and dressmaker's dummies in background
Carol Taylor runs a law firm and a fashion label.(

Supplied: Elizabeth Kinnaird


With a gentle nudge from her husband she began painting for the first time and slowly her confidence returned.

Her thoughts came back to her legal career and she went on the hunt for other disabled lawyers to show her how it might be done.

But she had no luck, and had to navigate her way back into the corporate world on her own.

Today, with the help of her husband and some great modern technology, Carol is the director of a successful legal firm on the Gold Coast.

And she didn't stop there. Unable to find appropriate wheelchair-friendly corporate fashion, Carol has also created her own clothing label featuring her artworks.

Showcased at the Brisbane Fashion Festival, her designs have toured Australian galleries and she is now aiming to open an online store.

"You've got to be prepared to try things, you just don't know where it's going to lead," Carol told me.

"You know, for me, it was odd, I had no interest in art prior to my injury. And look at all the doors, it's led me to where I am now.

"It opened one door after another it gave me the confidence. That's how it started for me. Just one step at a time, you can't be pushed."

Role models beyond the podium

Liesl's life also changed enormously after that first day at the stadium.

Paralympian Liesl Tesch will contest the NSW seat of Gosford for the ALP, after the seat was vacated by MP Kathy Smith.
Liesl Tesch has held the NSW seat of Gosford since 2017.(

ABC News: Emma Simkin


Now a Labor MP in NSW, she recently launched the Paralympian Mentoring Program, supporting younger people with a disability to become the next star athletes.

She went on to explain why a program like this is so important, even for someone like me.

"It'd be great to take a person who doesn't have the slightest bit of interest in sport and take their goals, ambitions and dreams and help them get to a place beyond where they are immediately post-accident a lot faster than what I think has happened in the past," she said.

After speaking to Liesl and Carol I've found myself reflecting on the job of our Paralympians.

Perhaps their task is to be our role models, showing us that there is a life to live alongside disability.

But surely we need more role models with disabilities represented in the media?

People living with disabilities must be able to see and connect with others like themselves, who reflect every aspect of a successful life — not just those stepping off a podium.

We need to see CEOs, small business owners, prize-winning authors, models, actors — any role in our society where purpose, contentment and vitality shines through.

Although I do look forward to the numerous Halloweens yet to come, dressing up as a zombie bride or legless pirate are not my only options.

I'm getting excited to see which doors will open for me and hopefully with some new connections, I'll come up with something soon.

Possibly I could be a media presenter at the ABC? Fingers crossed… well, perhaps you could do that for me?


Source: ABC

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