Last month, a mountain biking crash in the Whakarewarewa forest left Laura Stuart a paraplegic. She shares her journey to embrace her new reality.

IT'S been six weeks since I had too much fun on my birthday, biking off the trail edge.

I am slowly getting used to being 29 years old and having exceedingly lazy legs. My legs do nothing but twitch all day - especially the left one. However, they are at least good for entertainment - my partner discovered that my previously unperturbed feet are quite ticklish.

Also, on Wednesday during my X-ray session the X-ray technician had to time the button press right between lefty's triple tapping patterns. Now I am waiting in anticipation to hear if my neck brace can come off and I can start doing chinups with my wheelchair attached, or maybe just learn to get out of bed.

In the meantime, I've been taking my rehab into my own hands (don't tell the staff). I put my socks and shoes on all by myself this week (now it only takes me three minutes per sock) and I managed to put a dress on without getting stuck halfway.


The whole process is not dissimilar to what I imagine it would be like dressing a sausage with arms.

All of this meant I have had to finally look down below my chest and confront my new shrinking body. Up until this point half my body was easy to ignore as the nurses dealt with everything chest-down. What used to be leg muscle has turned into bones and loose skin and I have a mono-pack that is too loose to hold in my now permanently distended belly.

I asked the doctor about Botox to freeze my abs and received the sympathetic smile in reply. I am 49kg for the first time since I was 13 years old and unfortunately the weight loss is not due to fat burning.

Now that only half of me functions properly I have to be super health conscious to avoid people asking me when I am due. So today I started my food diary (also required to make some sense of my digestive patterns) and cardio regime.

I tried interval training on the hand-cycle and lasted two minutes.

My gosh! Either I am so unfit or that thing is a torture device-but probably both! I always said I would start road cycling when I get so old I can no longer balance on the trails. Now the time has come I am not so sure I can endure staring down at miles of tarmac watching my revolving arms.

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Having spent my childhood in a gymnasium I am unsure if I'm ready to become a gym bunny once again, I think I might have to take up swimming.

The highlight of my week was the weekend.

I was allowed to venture out into the outside world for the first time. I think I learnt more in the real world than any session in the rehab unit - like going to the zoo to blend in with all the other strollers being pushed around (at least I don't throw tantrums anymore), getting stuck to a supermarket trolley (it's harder to push than it looks), and trying to cut vegetables without any core strength (I look like the counter-lever dunking bird from the Simpsons).

As it was my first day excursion

I got the nurse run-down - like taking my medication on time, emptying my pee bag, and not having sex because I can still get pregnant.

Did they really think we were going to have a quickie behind the tortoise enclosure?!

The zoo was very family friendly and all of the animals were on good behaviour. What were not friendly however were the sideways sloping walkways and the terribly steep hills. I am really going to have to get fit to be able to push myself and my 19kg wheelchair around yes
that's right, my wheelchair weighs more than my mountain bike and it doesn't even have suspension!