The story of Noella

Here’s to the long story that leads me to the start.

On the 22nd I became an above-knee amputee and for the last 96 days have been working on recovering, healing and now starting on getting back to work and life.

Now you thought that was my story and well it’s not that rare, not saying amputation isn’t difficult but it’s not classified as a rare condition.

Nope, my story isn’t that easy… I mean short.

Let’s jump back 30 years ago to when my mother birthed a lovely little girl who had a purple leg. Doctor after doctor told her there is nothing wrong, kids don’t feel pain and they just want to sleep in your bed, while her daughter was needing to be on crutches after a day of playing with friends, in a wheelchair after a week at school and asleep screaming in pain.
Yes, nothing is wrong. Mum spent so much effort, hours and money; finding anyone to listen.

Then one day my mum talking at polo and one of the riders was listening and he suggested an MRI, funny enough he was a radiologist. He referred us and that doctor was open to looking further as he didn’t know what it was. This doctor sent my scans around the world and found a name of the condition and treatment, in America.

Low Flow Vascular Malfunction, yep that’s the rare part of my story. My AVM at that time was one of the largest known. Running from toes to waist on the right side and it was very dense.

After some more amazing work from my mum, we received government funding for 3 round trips to America and 12 embolisation treatments.

Little did we know what we were in for. 3 trips is not where it ended.

We started travelling for that first year with three trips; of a month at a time and four treatments in the 4 weeks we were there and then fly home. There were two to three months in Australia before we were off again, we didn’t even know what season we were living in for a while there.

This got difficult to manage after a few trips. So we moved to Denver Colorado, that way Doctor Yakes could do two embolisations a month and work on getting as many treatments on my leg before puberty as AVMs tend to grow rapidly during that time.

We lived there for around two years. My mum was so brave and got her US driver’s license and bought a car that friends stored for us when we were in Australia. We were in the US when the Australian 2000 Olympics were on, it was a fun time, cheering on our Aussies! The Aussie dollar dropped below 50c to the US dollar and we couldn’t afford to keep living there and went back to travel multiple times a year.

These trips were hard, every treatment blocked the bad veins but give me some other form of trouble, ulcers, nerve damage, bleeds and the building of contractions throughout my leg.
Do not get me wrong this treatment and the team of doctors saved my life and gave me the chance to have the opportunity to do so much and keep my leg for so long however there are catches that you have to learn to deal with.

During this life, I ended up on underarm crutches from contractions. One night my mum stole them and replaced them with forearm crutches, this is now 20 years on those crutches. And go with me they have.

We wrapped up with the American doctors I can’t really remember what year we finish but I know we had treatment 79 there and during that, I had a complication of a broken leg, they fixed it and supported up through that and we left that trip thinking we were coming back however at the similar time the government funding model change and as doctors had come over from Australia to learn this treatment, treatment became available in Australia. Meaning we could treat here and the chapter on American ended, well we still visit from time to time.

We did 18 round trips to the USA, three flights each way, that’s 108 flights in I’d like to say 6 years but as I was a kid I can’t remember right when we stopped travelling. But dang, that’s a lot of flights.

Each one of these trips taught either me or my mum a lesson and there are now 20 of those, so I’m going to save them for later.

Now remember this is a long story and I’m now 30, so there is still more yet to go but I’ll jump over this as quickly as possible.

Something that is not said yet is, I come from a horsey family and we gave up the horses to travel. Health is always important, hasn’t my disability taught me that? Boo, that statement gets old, but yea it’s taught me resilience and to take opportunities when they show.

So as the American chapter in my mind closes, the Australian one about us becoming normal but yet anything from it comes to mind.

Mum had developed a small business during our travels, she is a brilliant horse riding instructor and she taught riding when we were home on trips. Once full-time back home, this turned into a horse riding school where she worked and I rode horses, lucky to be home-schooled. That meant I had all the time to be out with the horses. We rode, and competed, I finished my schooling and looked to higher level education. Got my coaching certificate and started to officially work for the business.

I also rode and competed most weekends in dressage, show jumping, eventing, mounted games and pony club rallies, competitions and so much more.

I’ve ridden in the Stockmans Challenge horse events, there are 6 parts to the base competition.
-cattle handling
-cross country jumping
-Australian stockwhips accuracy
-bareback obstacles(my best event)
The biggest of these events were the Man From Snowy River Stockmans Challenge and Bush Festival.
I’d be one of the rare few with a disability to compete and from what I saw the only one with a visible physical disability. I competed at this event 5 times and others like it.
Nope, never won one or even won a class but that’s because I was a leg behind them to start with, but gosh were they good and it makes me proud to think I kept up with them.

Other achievements are training my horse to international level para dressage and of course the many events and tests to build up to that level. This is the same horse I rode the challenges on and did all my best work. He and I won a few RDA national championships, really he has a list of accolades a mile long and while I’ve taken a break due to my recent amputation, I have had time to put back into my sport by becoming my home states para dressage coordinator. Now it’s time to go be the support of those riders and be the person I wish I’d had at the start of my equestrian path.

Recently I’ve picked up Ice Hockey as something in my downtime, ha!

I now work for a country clothing business and when I’m required, also at the family business. I’ve gone on from my American days to become normal in every way possible, yet still not quite normal enough.
My story is not full here, there is much more to share, more to say and definitely more I’m yet to do.

I hope that makes a long story short