QLS Diverse Abilities Network champion SIP Week 2020

woman sipping out of straw

Life changed forever for Carol Taylor in 2001 after hitting black ice while driving with her husband, Rob in the Blue Mountains.

This moment in time left Carol paralysed from the chest down but it hasn’t stopped Carol from making the most of each day of her life since. Principal of a successful conveyancing firm, award-winning artist, fashion designer, relentless advoacate and proud mum, Carol has not let her quadriplegia define her.

Carol’s legal career was put on hold as she underwent serious rehabilitation to conquer the day-to-day challenges of living in her new body. Despite cautions from doctors, she underwent the heartbreaking experience of trying to conceive a child, enduring multiple failed embryo transfers, miscarriages and ultimately a traumatic but triumphant birth. One of her proudest achievement was giving birth to her son but when he turned 8-years-old, Carol felt the pull of the legal profession beckoning her return.

Health complexities riddle the lives of quadriplegics everywhere. That is why Carol and members of the QLS Diverse Abilities Network are sipping for SIP Week 2020, raising funds towards the Spinal Injury Project.

When asked about her experience re-entering the profession after 12 years, Carol admits she had some hesitations. Prior to her paralysis, Carol had run a thriving practice in Sydney and was only a few courses away from completing her masters.

“I was so career driven and it was all taken away in an instant”

“I thought who was going to employ me? I thought the only job I was going to get was that of a doorstop, that’s how low my self-esteem had become. I thought no employer was going to want to employ me because of the flexibility I needed.”

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“My husband said you don’t need to work for anyone else, set-up again as you did before, on your own. I thought it was impossible, I thought he had rocks in his head.”

Taylor Law and Conveyancing was born out of the seemingly unthinkable, achieving success in its own right acting as the first practice to do a simultaneous electronic settlement.

“I feel that my disability makes me a better lawyer. As someone with a disability, we are fighters and we bring that tenacity to our practice–that’s an asset. When you go through something that I’ve gone through, you find a strength you didn’t even know you had.”

Carol’s story of survival and pure grit is harrowing, but it is not entirely uncommon. According to Carol, there are many lawyers out there with spinal cord injuries who, against high odds and a global pandemic, are showing up and getting the work done. In fact, every day in Australia, horrific accidents like Carol’s result in a spinal cord injury.

SIP week demonstrates how simple actions such as drinking out of a straw can be hugely inconvenient for a quadriplegic. As Carol describes it, there are many symptoms of a spinal cord injury that makes day-to-day activities challenging. For her, the life-changing research is more than just being able to walk again.

“People assume that walking is the thing you miss the most, but it’s at the bottom of my list–I miss my hands so much more than I miss my legs.”

SIP week and The Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation was conceived by Perry Cross AM after he was severely injured in a rugby union tackle and told he would never walk again. Based at the Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ) and the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD) at Griffith University, the Spinal Injury Project is in pursuit of a cure for paralysis. This world-first project, pioneered by 2017 Australian of the Year Alan Mackay-Sim, involves the transplantation of the patient’s own olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from the nose into the spinal cord.

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“This is serious stuff… I think there’s real promise.”

To raise awareness and funding towards further research, Carol Taylor, Fiona Yeang, Ashleigh DoRozario, Michael Bidwell and Henry MacPhillamy will be sipping their drinks through a straw, just as one would with a serious spinal injury, for an entire week. While the task is seemingly simple, it will provide the group with a small hint of the daily challenges those with a spinal cord injury face every day.

“There are lots of lawyers with disabilities out there and there are lots of lawyers with spinal cord injuries… I ask members of my profession to try to understand the challenges that I face every day and to sponsor a sipper to fund this research… I’m not asking anyone to run a marathon or break even a sweat”.

The QLS Diverse Abilities Network will be sipping from 2–8 November. Support the team and donate towards spinal injury research by visiting the team’s contribution page.

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