AFTER two and a half months of living in limbo I finally made it out of the Spinal Unit into the real world.
The last week has been quite eventful. I spent Anzac weekend in Rotorua as a trial away from home. It was like a breath of fresh air being back, and not just because it was a few degrees cooler than Auckland. I missed the forest green, the steamy suburbs and the lack of traffic.
We came down to Rotorua so I could pack up my flat. I didn't actually do any packing but sat at the bottom of the stairs and directed my mother and partner.
They did a sterling job having to take orders from me. I certainly found watching other people organise my stuff a challenge in patience and delegation.
My patience was stretched when I spent six hours in the emergency department to have a check-up after falling out of my wheelchair. To everyone's disbelief, I wasn't even doing anything remotely dangerous.
I simply started rolling backwards and put my hands on the wheels to stop the chair but I kept on going. Luckily my partner put his foot out in time to cushion my head.
So despite what the medical report states, I am adamant that I did not suffer a brain injury. It was a bit of a deja vu moment as that evening I had just booked to go to Abracadabra to finally get to have that meal I was meant to have the day of my accident.
We ended up going to McDonald's drive through at midnight.
The trip was quite emotional, saying goodbye to colleagues, friends and a community I have come to love and am having to leave too soon.
It was also hard seeing the mountain bikes being driven around on the backs of cars, knowing that in my past life I would've spent every day of the long weekend making the most of the forest.
I hope that one day I will get to enjoy riding in the Whakarewarewa forest and I can only imagine how awesome the trails will be when that time comes!
It was a real treat to get to meet the St John's Ambulance and Philips Rescue Helicopter crew and being able to say thank you in person. Learning about the effort and precision that went into my rescue made me really appreciate the value of the two teams.
Being first on the scene can also mean that the rescue crew are the first to be forgotten about (especially when suffering adrenalin induced memory loss), but without their effort, I wouldn't have made it to surgery at all.
Having spent a successful weekend away from the unit and the helping hands of the nurses, we forged on with my discharge.
Typically there was a mad rush to get everything in place before I was discharged. There are wheelchair cushions to sort, mattresses and standing wheelchairs to trial, and ramps to install.
Then of course I needed to be independent enough to go home - that has been the challenging part since my new ultralight wheelchair has put me a few steps behind in wheelchair competencies.
The final journey was also not without hurdles. On the day of my discharge I was nervous about what my bladder would do - what happens if I cause a flood on the plane?!
Instead I ended up calculating my liquid volumes wrong and caused a bed flood an hour before we were due to leave.
Then a taxi car turned up instead of a mobility van. Luckily we were able to use one of the unit vans and rush to the airport.
Boarding the plane I felt quite conspicuous being loaded onto the cherry picker. And then as we were waiting to disembark in Blenheim I watched as the airport crew loaded my wheelchair with an elderly lady.
My mother had to race down the ramp to stop them from carting her away in my chair.
Apparently she thought it was meant for her, and as there were no other chairs the poor old dot had to walk to the terminal.
I have a feeling I am going to have to be quite territorial over my fancy wheels.
My first night out should've been a happy celebration but I was exhausted and to make things worse I couldn't get onto my bed because it was too high.
This resulted in a flood of tears but was quickly soothed with hugs and back rubs and a hearty home cooked meal.
Now I've had time to rest (and sleep in) it feels fantastic to be out in the country, away from the sterile smell of the unit and the crazy Auckland traffic.
There are a few more things that need troubleshooting and I have a long way to go before I am fully independent but I am confident that this new chapter of my life will be a good one and each day will bring small triumphs.
¦This was Laura's final column. We thank her for sharing her recovery with us and wish her all the best for the future.