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Authors: Emma Gee

Reinventing Emma

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“It's not what happens to you that matters, it's how you choose to deal with it”

Emma Gee

In loving memory of my grandparents, Joy and Charles Robinson – you provided me with a solid foundation and demonstrated how to live according to your values.

To my parents, Lyn and David Gee for your unwavering love and devotion. By your example, you instilled in me such a positive, compassionate and accepting approach to life. The opportunities you provided enabled me to find meaning in my life and pursue my passions. I will be forever grateful to you and the incredible sacrifices you both have made.

This book is also dedicated to all of the people who encounter seemingly insurmountable challenges in life.

Published in 2016 in Australia by Emma Gee

[email protected]

www.emma-gee.com

Text copyright © Emma Gee 2016

Book Production:
OpenBook Creative
Cover Design:
Anne-Marie Reeves
Cover Photograph:
David Gee
Consulting editor:
Annie Hastwell
Copyedited by:
Ann Bolch

Emma Gee asserts her noral right to be identified as the author of this book.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication nay be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written consent of the publisher. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry

Author:
Gee Emma, author.
Title:
Reinventing Emma
ISBN:
9781925144291 (paperback)
9781925144307 (ePub)
9781925144314 (.mobi)

Subjects: Subjects: Gee, Emma E.

Cerebrovascular disease—Patients—Australia—Biography.

Occupational therapists—Australia—Biography.

Motivational speakers—Australia—Biography.

Dewey Number: 362.196810092

Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.

This book is autobiographical, and is not intended as a means of disseminating medical advice. Content contained in or accessed through the book should not be relied upon for medical purposes in any way. The advice of a medical practitioner should always be obtained.

In order to maintain their anonymity some names of individuals and places have been changed.

contents

Introduction
1
Beginnings
2
A Taste of the Future
3
Signs of Something Wrong
4
The Mystery Deepens
5
The Alfred – Digging for Reason
6
A Diagnosis at Last
7
More to Prove
8
The Therapist Becomes the Patient
9
A Brief Taste of Independence
10
A Date for the Big Day
11
So This is Goodbye
12
The Quiet Before the Storm
13
Things Don't Go According to Plan
14
From Dreams to Reality
15
Waking Up
16
Reality Bites
17
Deficits Revealed
18
At the Mercy of Staff
19
Passing on the Worry Baton
20
Handballed to Talbot
21
Therapy Begins
22
Three Months on – the Rehab Roller-coaster
23
Mid-therapy – Baby Steps
24
Leaving Talbot
25
A Dependent, Disabled Baby Returns Home
26
The New Me Steps Out into the World
27
Taking My Disability on Holiday
28
Dependent Independence!
29
On the Shelf
30
The Daily Churn of Rehab
31
Searching for Purpose
32
Moulding a New Identity and Direction
33
A New Love Life
34
A Real Working Girl Again
35
Independence Tested
36
Out There and Advocating
37
The Longevity of Stroke
38
Life Now
39
Finding Where I Fit

Foreword

What a marvellous thing Emma Gee has done for us in writing her searingly honest account of her extraordinary journey across a decade as she has struggled with courage, hope and determination to recover from a haemorrhagic stroke, to reinvent herself, to keep going day after day through the toughest gullies.

Yes, her story has moments of wry humour, deeply affecting insights, glimpses of joy but again and again, Kipling's words about “
forcing
heart and nerve and sinew
” come to mind.

Emma's compelling memoir opens with an almost lyrical account of a charmed childhood, halcyon days at university, overseas travel, confidence growing on the threshold of personal and professional achievements, adventures in spades.

Completely and utterly out of the blue it all began to change. Her very life was threatened. Every aspect thrown into chaos as frightening, confusing, horrific anxiety struck her down. Her body began to deteriorate. The search for a diagnosis and treatment led to brain surgery. Emma suffered a devastating stroke. Her own remembrances and her mother's diary notes of these harrowing experiences are confronting. They bring awareness and understandings that are powerful and instructive, so many painful truths.

We travel beside Emma on her gruelling recovery road. Oh, the tension in her storytelling. Every day was a struggle,
“my wings had been clipped. I may no
longer fly
”. Every day terror surrounded and engulfed her.

As an occupational therapist, Emma has insightful and constructive observations to make about the rehabilitation rollercoaster.

This book is confronting, illuminating in its candour and uplifting in its illustration of the inner strength of an exceptional young woman. Love shines through the pages; love and family, her identical twin sister, siblings, partners, little children, enduring friendships. Those through thick and thin devoted parents who gave unstintingly to Emma's future, encouraging her independence.

The wise mother treading on eggshells worrying about being pitying or patronising, who was both in the best way. The father who sat in the wheelchair to make it look normal. How inspiring are these anecdotes of the day to day loving, caring, sharing, grief, loss and joy!

Reinventing Emma must be read by all health professionals and by all of us who want to strengthen our knowledge of our shared humanity.

I am inspired by Emma's forthright advocacy, her description of her gutful of society's misconceptions about disability. I am inspired too by the recovery that came with work and purpose, her public speaking, her mentoring, support and encouragement for stroke survivors.

We must learn from this remarkable book how to offer help, especially to people with disabilities, to be aware of the emotional and financial toll disability imposes and to hold fast to the principles of the human rights doctrine about the dignity and worth of every human being.

Emma, we are indebted to you.

The Honourable Quentin Bryce AD CVO

An inspiring and insightful read. An amazing true story of courage, compassion, and commitment in the face of devastating loss. Emma Gee's story will move you deeply and her resilience will astound you.

Dr Russ Harris, M.B.B.S.
Author of The Happiness Trap

This book is a significant contribution to the ‘therapist as patient' literature. At once ferociously intelligent and deeply felt, it is required reading for every health professional, every health consumer.

Nick Rushworth,
Executive Officer
Brain Injury Australia

Reinventing Emma
is a moving tribute to the courage
of one inspirational young lady who, although representative of many
thousands of young people who suffer a stroke, is exceptional
because she
chose
to find meaning and purpose from her
condition. Her account of the sudden change of life as
it once was, along with the partial loss of the
very essence of herself, I found compelling. It was evident
Emma found herself with two choices – she could spend her
life mourning the fact that her dreams were now shattered
, or do whatever she could to change what could be
changed, without forsaking the insight to accept what couldn't
. So Emma learnt to push the boundaries of her impairments
, and in so doing, she teaches those around her to
do the same. Despite living in a society which values
status and ability, the way in which Emma reinvents her
life, teaches us that individuals should be accepted for who
they are and whatever contribution they can make to society
. This resilient young lady has reaffirmed my own belief that
human development cannot be accurately determined by science, nor can
potential be predicted, or spirit measured.

Cheryl Koenig OAM.
Author
& Motivational Speaker

Like Emma, I am an occupational
therapist, and I have worked with many stroke survivors. Reinventing
Emma taught me many additional things about stroke, including strategies
that other stroke survivors [and therapists] can use to improve
their quality of life. Emma's book is beautifully written
and a pleasure to read with great real-life stories
interwoven throughout and will leave you wanting more

Dr Annie
McCluskey,
Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy,
The University of Sydney

BOOK: Reinventing Emma
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