It started as another blissful day in paradise for Rhiannon Tracey.
But when a poolside tragedy just weeks before her 21st birthday left her fighting for her life in a foreign hospital and a diagnosis as a C-5 quadriplegic, her world as she knew it changed forever.
12 years on, Rhiannon’s limitless drive and positivity has seen her defy all odds. She’s turned her setback into a superpower and is inspiring others around the world to do the same. We’re in awe of Rhiannon and the power of the human spirit.
And there’s no sign of that fire in her belly going out!
Today, Rhiannon wears more hats than Gaga on a red carpet – motivational speaker, resilience coach, lifestyle influencer and founder of The Next Step SCI Recovery – a Melbourne-based Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Recovery Centre that helps people living with SCI and neurological disorders to achieve their functional goals (@thenextstepscirecovery).
We caught up with Rhiannon to hear her amazing story and take a masterclass in being the maker of your own fate.
You’ve experienced something life changing & how you have handled it is inspiring! Tell us about your story.
On the 18th of September 2009, I dove into a resort swimming pool that was labelled “deep” but was in fact shallow, breaking my neck and back and becoming a quadriplegic just 2 months prior to my 21st birthday. That same evening, while awaiting emergency surgery in the Bali hospital, an earthquake struck Indonesia and the trauma ward of the hospital literally collapsed around me. I absolutely thought I was going to die then and there but obviously the universe had other plans as I not only survived that night, I survived the next 2 and a half weeks in that hospital after terrible medical care that led to two collapsed lungs, a failed surgery on my neck and spinal cord as well as bloody clots that were quickly travelling up to my lungs. By the time my travel insurance company flew a doctor and a nurse over to Bali to bring me home, I was literally taking my last breaths.
An air ambulance home to Melbourne, 3 surgeries, 7 months in hospital with the prognosis of never being able to move anything below my neck later, here I am living a completely independent life, managing a NFP Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Centre as well as the many other facets of my life. I can proudly say I have turned my pain into purpose and even though there were many emotional roller coaster rides along the way, I am very proud of the accomplishments I have made to date and the ability I have to have an impact on others’ journeys post physical trauma as well as within the disability community.
Your story is incredible, and your mentality is empowering! You travel Australia as a motivational speaker, what do you hope people will take away from hearing you talk?
12 years ago, I longed for hope. I had no idea what the rest of my life would look like, and I just wished someone would be available to come into my hospital room or computer/phone screen who had overcome adversity, and say to me “Rhiannon, you still have life on this earth, SO LIVE IT!” It was because of the lack of finding this unfiltered/tough love approach person, that I knew when I was ready, it would be me! It’s so important to understand that trauma is all the same for everyone, whether physical or emotional when it comes to the grieving process. Therefore, when we are sitting in the thick of it, knowing what the positive outcomes of these experiences can bring, it’s incredibly insightful and therapeutic and even an incentive to go deep and do the work! Knowledge is not just power, but so is experience, and in one’s lifetime we have so many opportunities to improve the life we are living.
We couldn’t agree more! You have so much to be proud of and turning that pain into purpose is something we could all channel.
You’ve been on such a journey – both mentally and physically. We can’t even imagine the limits your body’s been pushed to! And we know how fickle periods can be when we’re under stress…
Did your period change after your accident? If so, how?
I actually remember having my period in the ICU in Bali and the nurses trying to navigate how to change my pad etc. given they couldn’t move me around! It was mortifying but at that point the least of my worries. My hormones changed completely after my injury, and it was about 8 months or so before my period became regular again after opting for a more holistic approach to my healing journey and taking myself off the numerous medications and pain killers I was being prescribed. It was a good feeling to know that it was back because it meant that I could still have children in the future.
How has period underwear helped you in managing your flow?
Honestly, I needed these undies 12 years ago to avoid having to wear adult nappies when I was learning to manage my bladder now that I had a spinal cord injury. Tampons and most pads were an absolute struggle given I had no dexterity in my hands so these undies would have been a saving grace! I now recommend them to any and every woman I know who is going through a similar journey.
We all have our favourite cramp remedies, what are your go-to’s?
Chocolate! (Haha!) It literally fixes everything! Though on a serious note, I don’t often have cramps due to the lack of sensation within my body, but instead I experience leg spasms as a result of how my body’s autonomic nervous system senses pain, so I pop on my electric blanket, and snuggle up with my Golden Retriever. I don’t know what it is, but her hugs seem to be the cure for most things!
What’s next for Rhiannon?
These past 12 years have truly been a collection of lessons and experiences from having my injury, to building my career, going through heartbreak and consistently re-building time after time, it’s definitely time to put this journey of continuous chapters down on paper and create my own version of the “Encyclopaedia of life” or a guide to Overcoming Adversity! Watch this space as it’s currently in manifestation mode!
We’re not crying, you’re crying!
There are some people in life who seem to have all the luck. There are others who make their own fortune. For Rhiannon Tracey, well she’s in an other-worldly category of her own.
Rhiannon is an example of not just surviving what life throws at you but thriving at it – a fitting reminder for these wild and woolly times.
Love, Libra x
Anything else? Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.