How do you think you’d feel if you’d done all the jobs on the family farm and that was taken away from you in an instant?
Growing up, Katherine Reed was constantly by her Dad’s side.
“I was the physically capable child. I was like the eldest son and learned all the typical ‘boy’ jobs – splitting wood, building fences and how to trim horses’ hooves.”
Katherine still lives on a farm in Tasmania, with her husband Tim and sons Will, six, and Harry, three (pictured below).
But life is very different from her childhood, after she suffered a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) in a horse riding accident in 2008.
“There’s all these things that I have the knowledge to do but not the physical capacity, so I do struggle with that – there is so much that I feel I could be doing but the chair stops me.”
Katherine describes living a rural life with Paraplegia as an emotional balance.
“For me to completely hand all that stuff over to my husband and to be the housewife is a real struggle. I have to find way to still be helpful around the farm.
“It makes me feel really useless in a place I used to feel really comfortable in.”
But Katherine has done so much in her life already. Useless isn’t a word anyone would use to describe her.
She’s competed in national and international wheelchair basketball competitions; has a Diploma in Horse Management; was the 2018 Tasmanian Women in Agriculture Encouragement Award Winner; has worked as a Disability Support Worker and as a volunteer in peer support programs in Tasmania and interstate; completed a solo road trip to Darwin and back; is a blog writer and has done countless talks to young people about living with a Spinal Cord Injury.
Since her injury Katherine’s given birth to her two boys. She takes care of them and the house and farms miniature goats.
“I use a quad bike to get around the farm and can do that independently. I do the day-to-day work of feeding and checking on the goats.”
All of this while supporting her husband’s work in the family’s beef cattle business.
Katherine’s always been keen to let people know what it’s like to live with a SCI.
“People need to understand that it’s not as simple as not being able to walk.
“I find that the symptoms that impact my life the most are bladder and bowel incontinence. I use a catheter and spend an hour to an hour and a half on the toilet every morning – it feels like a waste of so much of my life.
“The fact that I can’t feel my legs means I am in danger of pressure sores and burns. My blood circulates slower which causes me to have cold legs all the time and I have a slower rate of healing.”
And dealing with mental health has been a big issue for Katherine recently.
“The last few years have been quite tricky on us as a family.
“I’ve recently had a diagnosis of ADHD and have relied on my husband a lot more than either of us expected.”
Katherine doesn’t share this to make people feel uncomfortable – but instead to inform them, particularly around SCI.
“People treat us differently because they don’t understand,” Katherine says.
“The majority of people want to be better and want to help, so I like having conversations with them, to ask their opinions and have discussions back and forth.”
Having conversations with her husband at the end of a busy day is important for Katherine too.
“Particularly over summer we’ll put the kids to bed and spend some time outside with the goats of an evening. Having a debrief together is so good.”
It seems the balance of life on the land can definitely swing both ways.