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Rachael

My name is Rachael, I am 40 years old. Finally, after years of disappointment, tragedy and challenges I have my ‘chance of a life-time’.

As a child my dream was to represent my country as an Equestrian Olympian. With life’s unbelievable situations being continuously thrown at me from many directions I now have my chance to make that a reality!

I have been selected with the real possibility of representing Australia in my passion, horse riding.

It was not my choice to be a “Para-Olympian”, however life’s challenges have made this a possibility. The Para Olympics are in Rio 2016. This sport – Dressage – as many others, requires dedication, training, finance, physical stamina and patience.

Currently I have passed four out of the six stages of elimination and am currently awaiting the results of my “certification of impairment” grading.

The Certification represents my ‘Disability Level’ and whom I’ll compete against as my direct competition.

I have a severely Traumatic Brain Injury, a recent Spinal Cord Injury, Foot Drop, Caudia Equina Syndrome, Lupus, Rheumatoid and Osteo Arthritis, Epilepsy along with other Blood and Autoimmune Diseases. The ‘Classification’ would see me compete against others, which have similar kinds of impairments.

Once the Certification level is given, my Competition Phase begins; here, I am required to ‘gain points’ at National Competitions. Once I have gained the required minimum points I have secured my place in the Australian Para-Olympic Squad.

The mere idea of this fork-in-the-road gives me hope, excitement, a challenge, both physical and mental stamina and now a reason to live! You see, over the past many years I have seen too many ‘dark places’, places which have altered, scared and beckoned me.

At 19 years of age I was diagnosed with Manic Depression, this sadly was not treated correctly until 2009 – as we all well know now this disease is called Bipolar.

In 2013 was my ‘formal’ diagnosis of Epilepsy. With these aliments along with adjusting to my ‘new life’ (from my recent (2014) Spinal Cord Injury) in a wheelchair, I have seen great despair, depression, anxiety and considered suicide NUMEROUS times!!! I had NO purpose to my existence.

With major thanks to ‘Partners in Recovery’ and my Mental Health Team I have secured a placement at Arundel Park Riding for Disabled. And now…but NOT in my wildest dreams… this may lead to my placement in the Para-Olympic Squad!

My PIR facilitator, Nick, assisted me to apply for Flexible Funding to cover my riding costs and insurance up until the Olympics in Rio next year, which was approved recently. This has made a huge impact on my life, my financial ability to ride, and gives me a sense of purpose and hope for the future in my chosen community. I have something to look forward to each week!

Since having this opportunity and through the newfound social connections that I now have, I have also been offered $15,000 in sponsorship for a horse.

Competitive riders require a ‘back up horse’ in case of injury or the likes. If you’ve any hope of success it’s a necessity… like race car drivers have spare parts, engines and body kits. Unbelievably because of this, a kind person offered to purchase a specifically highly trained competition horse! And is additionally prepared to pay start up fees for events, travel and even offered to loan us a spare float! I cannot thank this generous kind hearted soul enough!!!

My most recent achievement has been realised by the assistance of Nick, my PIR Facilitator, who encouraged me to write a letter seeking sponsorship from his home agency, FSG Australia.

Together we submitted a request for sponsorship and just last month received a response from FSGA, who committed to donating $2000 to assist me with my competition costs, riding attire and other items!

I have the exciting opportunity of a life-time to open so many of my life’s locked doors and so many people are joining me on my journey.

‘My life’ has very nearly killed me however here I am… still alive!

* PIR wishes Rachael every success as she purses her dream of Rio!

For other Gold Coast events and activities visit the Gold Coast Primary Health Network’s website: HealthyGC.com.au

PIR is a Federally funded program. Other consortia members include Gold Coast Health and Mental Health Association QLD