Yesterday during a full College assembly, our students were fortunate to hear from a guest speaker Ms Rhiannon Tracey.
On September 18, 2009, Rhiannon, on holiday in Bali, suffered an accident after she dove into a pool and changed her life forever. A spinal cord injury from the accident meant that Rhiannon was diagnosed as a C-5 quadriplegic. She was given only the faintest of hope of being able to walk again, just a few months away from turning 21.
After the accident, Rhiannon's emergency surgery was delayed by nine hours due to a horrific earthquake on Indonesian shores. She was moments from death after her lungs had collapsed, and a hospital ward was left deserted as people ran for cover. Finally two weeks later, she was flown to an Australian hospital and underwent two more lifesaving surgeries.
With a strong love for animals, Rhiannon worked as a veterinary nurse before the accident, was an aspiring singer and had a bright future ahead of her. But when doctors told her she would never walk again, they advised her to sell her beloved RAV4, as she would never be physically able to drive it again. Being the tenacious person she is, Rhiannon would not simply accept this, and she set out to prove them wrong.
Her only ambition from then on was to regain her independence. In 2011, two years after her accident, Rhiannon proved the doctors wrong and and can can now walk short distances with crutches, and can drive her modified RAV4.
Rhiannon is living proof of the limitless potential of the human spirit. For long distances, she still requires a wheelchair, but through her hard work and commitment she has surprised doctors and proved that anything is possible.
Since her injury, Rhiannon decided to use her experience to create a positive outcome for others living with spinal cord injuries. In 2012 Rhiannon, with the help of her mother Sharyn, founded The Next Step (TNS) as a not-for-profit organisation, and opened The Next Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Centre in 2014 in Thomastown, Victoria. The Next Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Centre is a recovery facility for those with neurological disorders who want to obtain a greater quality of life and regain their independence.
Since her accident and founding TNS, Rhiannon has dedicated her life to helping others and building awareness for an injury that could happen to anyone. In 2012, Rhiannon joined SpinChat, which saw her visiting Victorian schools to raise awareness, promote prevention and educate students about spinal cord injury. Later that year, she was recognised for her work and awarded the title of Young Australian of the Year.
We thank Rhiannon, for sharing her inspirational story with our students. Her wonderful mantra that she lives by 'It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after that' was something we hope all our students take away with them.