In 2013, when Emma Carey was 20, she went on a European summer holiday.
She still finds it strange how normal she felt that Sunday morning in June, when she decided to go skydiving in the Swiss alps. Even those first few seconds, as she was free-falling from 14,000ft, felt “incredible”.
Then she noticed something was wrong. Her tangled parachute hadn’t opened fully, and as she saw the ground coming, she was certain she was going to die.
Em landed on her stomach, fully conscious. She couldn’t move her legs, and she couldn’t get up. She had broken her spine and her pelvis, and doctors said she would be confined to a wheelchair for life.
Now, five years later, Em has just returned from a very different kind of European holiday. For the first time, she revisited the place of her accident.
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So here is it… welcome to the spot where I landed. I’ve learnt on this trip that you never really know how things are going to make you feel and there’s no point in even trying to anticipate them. I went here ready to feel whatever I needed to but surprisingly nothing came, and I felt completely fine. As I looked around, all I could think was how the heck did we survive? How on earth were we lucky enough to land on grass?! The field is surrounded by alps, trees, cliffs, lakes, buildings… yet we landed right here, 2 metres away from a hard, asphalt road. That’s when I realised… this ground didn’t break me, not at all. It caught me. I learnt very early on in this whole journey that your happiness in life is based on one main thing and that’s perspective. Whether you see the glass as half full or half empty. Whether you see a skydiving accident as lucky for surviving, or unlucky for happening in the first place. Whether you can forgive and find compassion, or hold anger and spend your life in hatred. Whether you are thankful for landing on grass, or resent that you didn’t land on your feet. Whether you are grateful for walking, or are ashamed of having a limp. People often ask me how I choose the glass half full option and to me it’s simple… I would prefer to be happy. This place changed my life in ways I’m still learning even five years on, but how lucky am I that I got to stand here today… STAND. On the same two legs which stopped working in this very spot. My friend once said something to me which summed it up perfectly. He said ‘the ground was hard enough to change you but soft enough to keep you.’ I like that a lot. PS. Sorry for the last photo… I couldn’t not ????????♀️???? PPS. Anyone else notice the difference in the sky?
Back in Australia, she’s determined to share the reality of what it’s like to live with a spinal cord injury – something she knew nothing about five years ago.
On Wednesday, the now 25-year-old posted a series of videos to her Instagram story, documenting the details of living with her injury.
“When I woke up, I saw someone did a post saying it’s World Spinal Cord Injury Day, so I thought what I would do is I would film my day today on stories, and show you some parts of my day and my life that are injury-related that you might not know about, which are just daily things,” she said.
“Obviously you need to remember that every spinal cord injury is completely different, some people have certain symptoms and problems that other people don’t have… so I’m just going to be showing my personal issues that I live with.”
Filming from her bed, Carey explains that she typically sleeps around four to five hours a night due to pain, and also because she stays up late to do her last catheter.