Bianca’s Story

Bianca making tea in her Ability Apartment

I’m free to just be myself and plan for my future in my Ability Apartment. After all, I broke my back, not my personality!

I spent 7 years working in Banking Finance. I started as a Teller and worked my way up to become a Lending Manager (Home Loans and Small Business) but I felt really stressed out all the time and couldn’t turn off when I left work. I realised it wasn’t right for me and did what anyone looking for adventure would do… I ran off and joined The Navy!

I chose to be a Combat Systems Operator Above Water (Air Warfare) but was lucky enough to join 822X, the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) team. I was trained to fly and service a fixed wing surveillance drone called ScanEagle. It was an amazing job and I loved every minute of it. As a bonus, I was stationed on the beautiful NSW South Coast at Nowra.

There I spent every spare minute surfing and visiting the gorgeous beaches around the area. I came to love surfing so much that I joined the Navy Surf Riders Association so that I could go on Development Camps, compete, and surf with my fellow sailors.

On a glorious day off in January, 2020, I completed an excellent morning surf and was rinsing off at one of the beach showers when I heard the unexpected noise of a tree cracking. Although it sounded very far away to me initially, when I turned around it was heading straight for me. I had no time to react or move away and could barely even brace for impact. I was sure I was going to die in that moment. After a few moments, I was shocked to realise that I was still conscious but as I felt the sensation leave my legs, I knew I was badly injured. It took a small army of emergency services almost 40 minutes to get me out from under the tree and I was then airlifted to Sydney for emergency surgery.

Never one to do things by halves, my injuries were pretty extensive. I broke 6 ribs on my left which caused a pneumothorax, left femur and I broke my back in 5 places T3-4-10 L5 & T12 is where I have an incomplete Spinal Cord Injury.

My brush with death has left me with a renewed outlook on life. I know that I’m lucky to still be alive and I try to forge ahead in my daily activities with that mindset. I was Medially Discharged from the Navy two years after my accident but I’m really proud of the time I served my country. I’ve only been surfing once since my accident but I recently went to Sargood (a Spinal Cord Injury Retreat at Collaroy in Sydney) and had the most amazing swim in the ocean! I realised that I really do miss the beach and surfing, so I’ve got plans to get right back into it this year.

Part of what has helped my recovery has been the opportunity to live in an amazing Ability Apartment. I’m free to just be me and to live independently with my favourite furry friend, Frankie. I’ve been able to set up my apartment exactly as I want it to be with everything as I want it. I have supports to help me on a daily basis but the in-built and automated features of the apartment have enabled me to live life on my own terms with a high level of autonomy.

When something like my accident first happens, it’s pretty scary just not knowing what the future will hold or what sort of housing you’ll end up in. So many young people get stuck living in nursing homes or hospitals just because they don’t realise that Specialist Disability Accommodation is an option for them. I was honestly a bit surprised when I first saw my Ability Apartment – it was modern, clean and spacious and nothing like I had imagined. The Ability SDA Team has been friendly and helpful and I know they really care about their tenants as people. I feel lucky to live here and know that my physical environment has given me the chance to reconnect with myself and my interests.

I also love being close to the shopping precinct and accessible public transport. I regularly catch up with friends and am able to access a huge range of medical and rehabilitation services very close by. It helps me to get on with my life knowing that I can integrate the things I have to do with the things I want to do and love doing. Having a lovely apartment allows my friends and family to visit easily too and means that I’m not socially isolated.

Apart from my musical and social interests, I’m also able to work from home from my second bedroom. I like to joke that I’m retired but I do some freelance work as a Social Media Manager, and I also make custom denim jackets. When I’m not working on either of those things, I’m busy writing a book about my experiences.

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