I was rubbing the sleep from my eyes when strange shapes surrounding my hospital bed caught my attention.
Looking around me in shock, I laughed.
Dozens of medical gloves, which had been blown up to like balloons, decorated my room.
"Happy Birthday, Emily!" a nurse walking past chuckled.
Although spending my 25th birthday in hospital wasn't ideal, the surprise had lifted my spirits.
Six weeks earlier I'd been in a car crash, and suffered a brain injury and a T4 spinal cord injury.
I couldn't remember the accident, the month after it, or the days leading up to it.
At first, the news came as a shock.
"You'll never walk again," a doctor warned gently.
Unable to grasp the severity, I shook my head in defiance.
Weeks later, reality hit and I thought about all my hobbies I could no longer do, like cheerleading.
I'd been a cheerleader for five years but had taken a six-month break while I started full-time work.
In the end, I missed it too much and joined my squad at Southern Cross Cheer again. That decision was one of my last memories before the crash.
The thought of never cheering again devastated me.
Three months after the accident, I came across a video of a guy in a wheelchair cheering. He was incredible!For the first time in months, hope flooded through me.
Excited, I messaged Eddie, the owner of my cheerleading club. I want to do this, I wrote, sending him the video.
If you want to join the squad then we can enter the Para Cheer competition, he replied.
So with my team's help I started training. Getting back into it was hard. I needed more upper body strength than ever.
The following year we started competing and qualified for nationals. Unfortunately, we were the only ParaCheer team in Australia, so we won by default, but we didn't mind.
All our comps are postponed this year but now I'm working on my film-making skills. I made a documentary about my injury and have created a YouTube account.
When I became a paraplegic I thought my life was over. Now I realise I can still enjoy my hobbies, just a little differently.
I may never walk again but with cheerleading, I can fly.
Watch Emily's film at: http://YouTube.com/c/EmQuattrocchi
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