When you walk through the large wooden door of Amanda Lowry's new Bethlehem home, she greets you with a glowing smile.

"I'm playing rugby these days," she says, before wheeling herself to the dining room table.

It is a different life to that of 10 months ago for the former chef and kiteboarder.

It was a sunny March 7 afternoon when Miss Lowry dived off a surfboard into the water, and into the sandbank that broke her neck.


The diagnosis was grim, with any movement below her neck unlikely.

Two months ago Miss Lowry joined the Bay of Plenty Steamrollers wheelchair rugby team.

"It's really cool. It's mostly men. I'm the only girl really," she says beaming.

Miss Lowry is enjoying getting back into sport so much, she now has a goal of reaching the highly respected national Wheel Blacks team.

"It's awesome, so fun.

"You walk in and there's no explaining. You don't feel worried because everyone's in chairs. There is this really cool understanding. It's totally for tetras [tetraplegics]."

Miss Lowry has played about six times non-competitively so far. When she returns in the new year she will be playing "for real".

The team has a month off over the holidays and Miss Lowry plans to spend much of her time practising moves "so I can go back and smash them".

"I need to get faster and stronger so I can learn," she says.

"People tip out of their chairs, that's how hardcore it is. I love it."

Miss Lowry was always sporty and was an active kiteboarder but this lifestyle was stolen from her when she hit the sandbar.

The accident left Miss Lowry without use of her legs and limited use of her arms and hands.

But she has pushed through doctors' meagre recovery expectations to achieve a moderately independent life with some use of her upper body.

"I've decided I'm no longer at the broken stage.

"I'm in more of a transformation stage. I'm in a chrysalis stage," she says.

In the past 10 months, Miss Lowry returned home to Tauranga in record time and has now re-established her tutoring role at the University of Waikato, found a wheelchair-friendly home, and even shared a cup of tea with personal hero and former Prime Minister Helen Clark when she was in town.

Miss Lowry will return to tutoring sociology in March, marking just how far she has come a year on from the accident.

She puts the incredible recovery down to the support she and her young family have received from the community - plus a bit of elbow grease on her part.

"I'm also swimming a lot these days," she says.

"I can go under the water and come up for air and also do backstroke."

Miss Lowry credits her motivation and positivity to the people and things she loves most.

"For me I've got this incredible family - gorgeous babies and wonderful partner."

Miss Lowry, partner Gemma Holroyd and daughter Lola, 4, welcomed baby girl Ziggy into their family seven days before the accident.

"I'm a bit broken but there's no reason that I should stop finding joy in different ways," Miss Lowry says.

"Playing rugby gives me joy, getting to hang out with my babies by myself gives me joy. It's just about living life and finding different ways of enjoying it."