real life

When Samantha woke up in hospital, she learned she'd been in two accidents. In one night.

It was the middle of spring, 2013 – the year Tony Abbott was elected Prime Minister and Prince George was born and Katy Perry was blaring out of every car radio in the country – when Samantha Longmore stumbled onto her friend’s front porch.

She’d finished work at a local nightclub and needed a place to sleep. It was 4:30am – considered late on a Saturday night to a woman just 20, but likely understood to be early Sunday morning for the neighbours.

Used to the outdoors and unbothered by the mild weather, Samantha curled up in a ball and fell asleep right there on the veranda, relishing in what would end up being just a 10 minute power nap.

That Sunday, October 26, Samantha had plans to go to the Picnic Races at Harden, about an hour and a half drive from where she lived in Canberra. With a car full of friends in the back, she drove the 126 kilometres – tired, but not debilitatingly so.

As tends to happen in the heat, her friends became increasingly intoxicated. They decided, as the afternoon drew on, to head to a local pub afterwards.

But the blaring sun and the stickiness and the smell of spilt, stale spirits had worn on Samantha, still sober. She told her friends she’d see them later. She was going to head home.

Sometime during that trip back along the highway, Samantha received a text message from her boss at the nightclub.

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“Sam. I really need you to work. One of our bar staff has pulled out for the night. I’ll pay you double,” it read.

She needed the money. Saving to eventually enter the Australian Defence Force, Samantha was working as much as she could; all week on a farm, and then three nights a week at a nightclub.

So, Samantha said yes. “It was a Sudanese night,” she told Mamamia. “They brought their own DJs in, it was absolutely incredible. Probably the best night out I’ve ever had and I was working.”

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It was almost 5am when her shift ended, and she recalls feeling “almost drunk” from a lack of sleep. She drove from the middle of Canberra towards her place, and stopped at a service station in Gold Creek.

After filling her car up with fuel, she purchased a salad wrap and a Fizzer. “Fizzer had brought out a new flavour,” she remembers. “And I thought you know what, I’m going to get one of these.”

Samantha never did get to try it though. Because 15 kilometres down the road she fell asleep behind the wheel.

She doesn’t remember that part. Just leaving the service station. But she knows that she veered off the road, and flipped her car. Strangers called an ambulance.

The rest – where the early hours of Monday morning somehow got worse – has been relayed to her by people who were there.

An ambulance arrived, and according to witnesses, Samantha wasn’t strapped into the stretcher properly.

She was flat on her back, unconscious, when the ambulance she was travelling in collided with another car.

It was her second accident. In one night. On a single stretch of highway.

When she awoke, Samantha, the 20-year-old woman who had applied to join the army, was told that her right leg didn’t work. Neither did her right arm, the arm that had learned to throw a ball and brush her teeth and write and paint.

It’s called hemiparesis – a word that Samantha had never heard before. It refers to paralysis down one side of the body. Her injury was from the base of her neck, all the way down to the tips of her toes, on her right side.

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“What the f*ck?” were the words that echoed through her head as she laid in a hospital bed, staring at the ceiling. Samantha was angry. She imagined that this was just one of those terrible dreams where you eventually wake up in a cold sweat, unable to breathe. And then she’d get up and go to work and hang out with her boyfriend.

But she didn’t wake up.

For three weeks, she barely moved. Not to have a shower, or go to the toilet. She was poked and prodded with dozens of drugs, horrified that she didn’t even have the capacity to roll over in bed.

Friends, family and her partner visited, desperate for her to be okay. But she wasn’t.

“When you’re in hospital,” she said, “you can feel like you have to keep your visitors entertained and happy. But there was no happiness. There was no entertainment.”

There was a point, she remembers, when she lay in bed, surrounded by a roomful of people. Her boyfriend was there. It took her a moment to realise it had happened, but, as Samantha put it, “I crapped my dacks”.

She yelled for everyone to get out. To get away from her. She was embarrassed and scared and realising that she was now a 20-year-old who had no control over her bowel.

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Samantha decided she couldn’t do this with other people around. She had to figure it all out on her own.

It wasn’t long after she received a phone call from the Defence Force. She knew she wouldn’t be able to join the army with a spinal injury, but the words hurt just the same.

And then there was the pain. Profound, breathtaking, indescribable pain.

There’s a lot, Samantha says, that no one really tells you about paraplegia. The nerve pain is one of those things. It can feel like someone’s sticking needles in you or your toes are on fire. There’s medication, but it’s not perfect. There are side effects and they take their toll long term. Not to mention what a bunch of pills do to your stomach.

There’s also the headache – one she’s had now for six years – every day since the accident. Samantha was hit on the top of her head, and says she was “technically squashed from the head down”.

You can’t feel some things, and feel others too much. You get really sick easily, she says. You need to monitor how much water you drink and how much food you eat, because there are bladder and bowel issues that need to be constantly managed.

“I couldn’t think about anyone else except myself,” Samantha said. “As selfish as that sounds, I just couldn’t do that anymore. I couldn’t put him [her boyfriend] before me and I couldn’t put my friends and family before me. I needed to focus on my recovery.”

Even though she loved him “to death”, it was Samantha’s decision to end her relationship which she described as otherwise ‘fantastic’. He supported her at her bedside, but she saw what happened to her as “changing his life unbelievably”.

“It was already tainting mine, it was already changing my family… and I didn’t want to have that happen to him as well.”

Looking back, Samantha thinks she would have done things differently if she had her time again.

But as weeks turned into months turned into years, things began to change.

First, Samantha did a certificate in health and fitness and became a personal trainer. She’d always loved exercise and being outdoors, so it seemed like a natural fit.

Listen to the latest episode of Lady Start Up, a podcast about how to build a business, from women who have done it before. Post continues below. 

Before long, though, she grew frustrated. There were so many things she couldn’t do herself in order to show her clients how to do certain exercises.

It was around that time she met her now partner, Jude. He’s a farmer. And Samantha has always lived on farms.

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A huge happy dirty 30th to my best friend!!! Jude Bannister Thankyou for spending the last 5 years of your 20s with me, building a sweet life, laughing at farts, going on adventures & drinking copious amounts of beer at times. Thankyou for sharing in my weirdness and for always being the best of fun! Your kind, caring & thoughtful, I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate you! I love you and hope you have a fantastic day , I’ll try not to burn dinner tonight ???????????? ——————————————- Thankyou to every one who helped and to those of you who came along to Jude’s surprise bday shin dig over the weekend, what an absolute cracker! I’ve Literally only just recovered from lack of sleep and too many beers hahaha I Can’t wait to see this guy back up in the sky ???????? ———————————————————— #dirty30 #partnerincrime #legend #farmboy #farmlife #wheelchairgirl #surpriseparty #family #friends #beers

A post shared by Samantha Longmore (@ohhbulldust) on

Slowly, she began to learn to draw, and then paint again, this time with her left hand. It was a creative outlet she’d missed.

Soon, that turned into knitting – something she’d never done before. But in her mid twenties, Samantha taught herself to knit with one hand, and created some merino wool wearable pieces which she began to sell.

Now, Samantha runs her own business called Ohhbulldust. Using natural Australian fibres, she knits clothing, blankets, throws, beanies and scarves. All with one hand.

She worried at first that people might just be buying her products as a display of sympathy, a “poor you” to a woman who had been dealt a tough set of cards.

But she’s left that insecurity behind now. Her products are remarkable both with her story, and without it. “It’s about making me happy,” she said. “Creating beautiful things out of that beautiful fibre that grows on our land.”

While this is not the life Samantha ever imagined for herself at 20, its one she’s grown to love.

A knitting needle and a ball of merino wool would be the two things that led her back to the one thing she values above just about anything else: independence.

You can follow Samantha Longmore on Instagram or visit her website, ohhbulldust, right here

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