A car accident in 2001 ended Carol’s career as a lawyer and left her a quadriplegic,
paralysed from the chest down. Unable initially to move even her arms the future looked bleak for this independent and creative young woman. What followed was months of physiotherapy and occupational therapy, every day a challenge to learn how to live in her new body. Eventually some arm movement returned but her hands remained totally paralysed. Carol’s fists were bound with bandages nightly into a boxing glove shape which deliberately induced a shortening of the tendons in her wrist. This process produces a Tenodesis grip essentially an induced curling of the thumb to index finger enabling the gentlest balancing of an item between the thumb and index but still no ability to apply pressure or “grip” in the normal sense. Carol slowly made gains in strength both physically and emotionally. A customised hinged splint made by her Occupational Therapist, Anne enabled Carol to write for the first time in months, and she wrote “Thank you Anne” Coping with a new life, new self identity and a new body was very difficult for Carol. At the time of the injury Carol and her husband Rob were newlyweds of only three years and were struggling to start a family.
Coping with the adjustment to a catastrophic injury in addition to the rigorous ordeal of IVF resulted only in miscarriages. It’s no surprise Carol slipped into a state of depression. For the longest time it seemed the Doctors were right and any hope of a child of their own was yet another thing Carol and her husband Rob would have to give up.In an effort to help Carol overcome these obstacles and bring back her “spark” Rob brought home a set of paint brushes and paints and enrolled her in classes at her local Community Centre. Things got off to a poor start when at the end of the first class the teacher, speaking directly to Rob as if Carol wasn’t able to talk (something she still encounters to present day) – suggested she stick to “abstracts” rather than trying to paint like the others. Needless to say, Carol did not return for the remaining classes.
Despite this discouraging beginning Carol set out to continue her artistic journey. First relying on splints just to hold a brush and beginning initially in the more forgiving medium of oils, she started to paint. Day after day Carol was eager to get out of bed and to her modified work station, custom built by Rob. Gradually Carol’s passion to paint was proving a healer, not just emotionally but physically also – her hands, wrists and shoulders were getting a 7-8 hour daily workout. Slowly the strength in her arms and wrist became so strong that Carol was able to put aside many of her aids, though she still uses some. Most importantly though Carol emerged with the strength to acknowledge that, agreed – Life isn’t easy as a quadriplegic, – but if life gives you lemons, then you better learn to like lemonade or you’ll end up very bitter!Carol and Robert moved from Sydney to the beautiful Gold Coast hinterland in 2005. Carol moved away from the thinners and smells of oil when, defying Doctors predictions and after years of failed IVF attempts Carol fell pregnant naturally. Despite an eight year wait, five months in bed, and a life-threatening infection after the birth, in 2006 Carol and Rob became a family with the safe arrival of a beautiful baby boy, D’arcy.
As a new mum Carol faced more challenges than most but whenever possible she never allowed her disability to get in the way of parenting D’arcy. Art took a back seat for a while until D’arcy was old enough to start school. By then Carol was eager to get back to her brushes. Though she started with oils, Carol was drawn to the challenge of attempting watercolour, seduced by its mood, translucency and unpredictable nature. Unfortunately art schools on the Gold Coast proved to be inaccessible to wheelchairs. Remarkably Carol taught herself the basics from books and DVDs. Frustrated by the lack of any hands-on tuition Carol sought the help of local acclaimed watercolorist Maryanne Holmes. Maryanne, was instrumental in her encouragement and her tuition, giving freely of her time and her knowledge. Today, nestled in a valley paradise with a wonderful husband and their eight year old son, Carol is reinventing her limits.