Tarnished Frocks and Divas has been an important part of the recovery process for two performers who have refused to allow serious accidents define their lives.
Tina Jennen's life changed at 3pm on January 10, 2017. While driving from Katikati to attend a business meeting in Tauranga, she was hit head on by a car that crossed the centre line.
Tina had to be cut out of her car by medics in full fire gear before she was rushed to Tauranga Hospital with six broken bones, including both arms and crushed ankles.
"I ended up with casts on every limb."
When Bridget McKinley heard about Tina through the Tarnished Frocks and Divas network, she delivered her a meal. Little did Bridget know that in a few months her life would change as well.
On July 12, 2017 Bridget was skiing at Cardrona on a black run she knew well and had skied countless times. For some reason, it could have been the snow conditions, her ski stuck as she turned and her bindings did not release. This caused her to springboard into a 360-degree flip in the air, landing awkwardly and hard.
She knew immediately she'd broken her leg. What she did not know until later was that she had crushed her tibial plateau and had multiple tibia fractures and open leg wounds.
She was helicoptered to Dunedin Hospital.
"I was on crutches for 11 months after multiple surgeries."
"I just sobbed when I heard about Bridget," recalls Tina. "I could so identify with what she was going through."
Tarnished Frocks and Divas was foremost in the minds of both women once they were conscious enough to consider the future. Tina had been a dancer in the show in 2013 and a model in 2015.
Heartbreak is not too strong a word for her deep disappointment at not being able to perform that year. This from a highly practical, outcome-driven woman with an MBA, on the boards of five organisations and a university lecturer in entrepreneurship.
"I had an extremely emotional response from not being able to audition as a result of the accident, helping me realise how important the show was to me."
Tina acknowledges while also praising all who tended her and completely forgiving the remorseful person who caused the crash.
Bridget was already three months into rehearsing as a dancer for the 2017 show, having performed in the 2015 show.
"I was gutted to not be performing and attending the show that year was a bittersweet experience."
Power of positive thinking
Once they had come to terms with their initial disappointments, both women came out fighting. They had a lot to fight against.
Both were given serious prognosis. Tina was told she'd be in hospital for three months and could anticipate a three-year recovery. Bridget had a series of surgeries to look forward to and a future knee replacement. Then no guarantee she would walk properly, let alone dance.
When transferred from Dunedin to Tauranga she had to be wheelchair lowered into the plane on a cherry picker.
"A memorable experience!"
Neither could accept the negatives.
"I discharged myself from hospital after a month. With career experience in change management, I needed to find a way to manage my own change," says Tina.
"There were concerning 'what-ifs' and complications for each of my surgeries and I simply decided to focus on the best possible, not the worst possible outcomes, taking recovery one day at a time," Bridget says.
Both women say they owe much to their surgeons at Grace Hospital. Bridget credits Vaughan Poutawera with care and understanding of her recovery goals, and Tina can't speak highly enough of Ian Galley and Dawson Muir.
They also appreciate the way their families (each is mother to four children) stepped up and coped with a mum who was suddenly not superwoman.
Friends have been fantastic and Bridget says her husband became an outstanding multi-tasker. "He really lived up to our vows, 'in sickness and in health'."
Journey to recovery with Tarnished Frocks and Divas
The Tarnished Frocks and Divas 'family' supported and encouraged them on their recovery and in their determination to return to the show and knock their confidence back into shape.
"In celebrating women over 40, Tarnished Frocks and Divas celebrates imperfection and individuality," Bridget says.
Tina, who is from South Dakota but now calls Tauranga home, agrees.
"I am awed by what Tarnished Frocks and Divas achieves for women. I have grown as much from TF and D as from my MBA!"
So, less than three years after accidents that could have left them permanently disabled and still dealing with constant pain and future surgeries, Tina and Bridget are happily rehearsing their modelling roles every Sunday.
"I consider it an important part of my rehabilitation," says Tina.
For Bridget too. "Since the accident my attitude is that if I can do it, I must. My leg will not define me."
So, it's very appropriate that they are appearing together in the show, celebrating recovery, celebrating life
What: Tarnished Frocks and Divas, Xanthia
Where: Trustpower Arena
When: September 25-28