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Lady with a cucumber

21 January, 2021

A lot of us had plans for 2020 that Covid-19 put paid to. When restrictions were finally lifted, Emily Quattrocchi decided it was time to see her friends who lived in Warrnambool, something she had planned for earlier in the year. It was her first independent journey since her injury, and it held a little more drama than she'd have liked.

This time, last year, I was getting ready to go home for the first time since my injury and get back to my new normal life. This year, I am ready and starting to get back to my new normal life, post Covid. 

I will admit it has been a little difficult to get back to life. I am a person that got into a bit of a slump being home too much, with wearing comfy clothes, not having to wear a bra and eating myself into the covid curve.

Time to get out

It was time I picked myself up and rolled myself away from Netflix and the chocolate and enter real life, where you could see if people hadn’t done their makeup, or brushed their teeth.

Rolling down the main street of Euroa, seeing big smiles, businesses thriving with customers and people coming up to chat to me, made me so happy. Since being in a wheelchair, this was something I was so scared of at the beginning of the year, but now I am actually doing it and just think to myself “what was I so scared about”.

A good thing about leaving my house also meant I could see my friends and family. A place I was hoping to go this year was Warrnambool, to stay with friends. Warrnambool is a 4 ½ hour drive. As I don’t drive, I would need to take the train which takes four hours from Melbourne to Warrnambool.

Rolling down the main street of Euroa, seeing big smiles and chatting to people, made me so happy.

Since being in a wheelchair, this was something I was so scared of, but now I'm thinking 'what I was so scared about?'

I thought I would be smart and fit it in with a medical appointment in Melbourne… I should have known better. I was trying to save coming to Melbourne twice. The medical appointment took much longer than expected because the doctor had to take a call and was rather slow and too chatty. Eventually, I roll out of there as quick as I can to get to Southern Cross Station. I made it on the train just in time with the help of lovely staff and my carer. I had a carer with me up until this point.

First time on my own

 I was on my own for the rest of the journey, the first time ever without a carer or my mum. It was a long train ride, and I’ll be honest, the train accessibility could have been a lot better. The aisle separating the seats was too narrow for my wheelchair, which meant I couldn’t sit on any of the comfy V/Line seats… oh how I wish I could have got out of my chair. I was stuck in a corner area. Luckily I had access to Netflix to reduce boredom.

Before my injury, I was a common user of V/Line trains, and have seen my fair share of public transport loonies… but seeing one since being paralysed was a whole new experience. Sitting right next to me was a young lady who was crying and yelling out the window, which I wasn’t too worried about. I chuckled to myself.

I wasn’t worried until she looked and pointed her finger at me while ranting that she hated me and was going to kill me. The only other people on the train were a couple at the other end. I grasped that I was vulnerable, stuck in this small space and I can’t get away. I started thinking what I should do if she does come at me.

She then turns around with a cucumber in her hand, looks at me, and says, “Do you want some?”

Who could help? 

I texted my mum, which really wasn’t the best thing to do in hindsight, because mum was already worried about me as it was the first time away by myself. Receiving a message that a crazy lady is threatening to kill me is not the most reassuring message to get. But I wanted to just let someone know what was happening and my mum is always the first person I call.

 I then thought about pressing the assist button, but she would clearly see that, and I think that would make things worse. Next thing, she was walking past me to where all her bags were and, in that moment, I was frozen. What was she going to do? She then turns around with a cucumber in her hand looks at me and says, “Do you want some?”

I am still frozen, thinking what’s going on right now, but manage to shake my head. She goes back to sitting down. Soon after she got off the train, but not before finishing her cucumber. The rest of the trip I was a lot less anxious and sat enjoying my Netflix.

Such a nice break 

Spending a couple of nights in Warrnambool with my friends, away from therapy and carers, was such a nice break and I really got to see how much my independence had improved. I even used a public toilet by myself for the first time. Sometimes I still needed assistance due to my spasticity.

 It was such a fun few nights away. I was able to check out the beautiful Warrnambool scenery, have some laughs, make homemade pasta and have a cheeky wine.

 As well as getting back to spending good times in person with friends and family, instead of on group zoom chats, I was excited to get back into trying different leisure activities, one being karate. I thought, karate, after my recent train trip, could be a beneficial thing to learn in case I ever come across a lady with a cucumber. I will take comfort in knowing a few handy techniques of how to defend myself.

I wonder what this time next year will bring after what I hope to be a fun, exciting, social 2021.

Emily Quattrocchi is an athlete and a filmmaker living in Euroa. Find her YouTube channel here, where she shares her life and her experiences living with a spinal cord injury.

Tags: Blog, Travel & Leisure, Health & Wellbeing