"My name is Gemma Willis and this is me...

On 5th of August 2015 myself and my mum had a bad car accident. I stayed 9 months in the Mater Hospital where I had 14 operations.

  • I have a shunt going from my brain to my heart.
  • Fractured C2 in my neck.
  • Metal plate under my eye.
  • Burst bowel.
  • Lost my toes.
  • Right above the knee amputation.
  • Paralysed from the waist down with metal rods holding me together.

So when I arrived to the NRH they didn’t know which programme to put me into as I fitted into all of them except the Paediatric Programme.  Over the 7 months I stayed in the NRH, I was involved in the NRH Spinal Injury, Brain Injury &, Limb Absence Programmes.

I don't think I realised how bad I was until I went to the NRH as I had so many injuries and had to learn how to do so many things from scratch.  My arms quickly became very strong as we had lessons on wheelchair skills and how to get across roads, up over bumps and rough surfaces.

I regained my independence and life again.  Maybe not the life I expected at 22 but I was happy to still be here.

Before my accident I was working and studying to be a chef so when I got down to the Occupational Therapy (OT) kitchen I was myself again and it gave me a confidence boost to think I can still do this!   I was so happy that I could get back doing the thing I love most - making nice things to eat.  The staff loved it too and funnily enough the cookery class was on before lunch so I would always prepare loads of delicious food for everyone."

I needed the 7 months to recover, accept and regain my (control of my life) independence and it also has given me a confidence I never had.

"While I was in the NRH my chocolate brownie recipe won a page in the NRH Cookbook 'Nurturing Recipes for Happiness'.  I have raised over €2,000 for the NRH Valentine's Fund.  This is a patient support fund that provides financial support for NRH patients and their families who are facing significant challenges following a sudden life altering illness / accident, where no other resources may be accessible to them.

I also was the guest speaker at the 2018 St Valentine's Ball in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire, where I was given the opportunity to share my story and again help raise vital funds for the NRH.

In 2017 a group of us from the NRH went to the UK to compete in the Inter Spinal Unit Games and I participated in every sport you can imagine - wheelchair rugby, hand cycling, table tennis, swimming, basketball; you name it, I did it. It was an incredible experience.

I have also gone on to speak in schools, have had my story published in newspapers, had an interview with Ryan Turbidy and appeared on Ireland Am.

It was the NRH who gave me the confidence to speak and now I can’t shut up! From speaking to TY students to launching the cookbook. They helped me find something I love!!"

"I’m so honoured and proud to help the NRH."

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