Teresa's story

Teresa has been able to see more of her whānau since moving into her own home with Choice in Community Living.

Teresa.Teresa is a strong and positive person.

Teresa will always remember the conversation she had with her anaesthetist when she woke from a four-day coma.

‘He told me I had passed away three times, and I said, ‘Pardon. Oh my God, no one wants me over there!’ Even when I couldn’t talk they would laugh because they could tell what I was trying to say. I’m one of those cheeky ones. You give cheek back and it makes you better.’

Until 2011, New Zealand-born Teresa had been living in Australia. At a friend’s house one day, she slipped from a swivel chair, her neck hitting a table. ‘My neck snapped in two – that’s how the doctor said it,’ Teresa recalls.

When she returned to New Zealand she spent time at Auckland Spinal Unit before moving to a Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation Centre, where she lived for two years.

She was able to move into her own home last year through the Ministry of Health’s Choice in Community Living (CiCL) demonstration.

Title: Teresa's story

Teresa: I slipped off a swivel chair, went backwards and hit a steel bar, which was on my friend's art table.

[Video of Teresa moving in her wheelchair around her home]

When I talked to the doctor, he told me my neck was broken in half.

The anaesthetist came to see me and he goes, "Well I was your anaesthetist when you went into the operating room."

I said, "Oh, ok, well thank you for that day because I'm still here."

And he goes, "Just! You passed away three times."

So, to me I was like, "Wow! And I'm still here."


[Video of Teresa talking to Linda]

Linda - CCS Disability Action: Choice in Community Living is about giving people different options for their support packages.

It's about getting people out of residential or rehab services and getting them into their choice of where they want to live. Hence the name Choice in Community Living.

So it's about giving people the freedom to have more say in how their packages work and how their funds are spent and what's important to them, to their life really.

[Video of Teresa in her kitchen]

Teresa: Moving into home and moving on with life the best way you can.

I was all for that, taking on a lot of challenges.

My social worker did some homework and she had all different choices and she mentioned Accessible Housing, which finds houses for people in my condition, my disability.

Linda: So we worked with Teresa to look at this house and then with her support package.

So we interviewed staff and together with the staff at Laura Fergusson, put together the support she required.

We, CCS DIsability Action, employ the staff and then we helped Teresa to move in and have just sort of been there in the background all along really. So when she needs something she gives me a call or occasionally we just check in that she's going ok.

[Video of Teresa talking to her sister Brenda]

Brenda - Teresa's sister: She's always loved being amongst people.

We've had marae meetings here. She's had a lot of people stay here.

You know, it's not only benefitted her but also the people that she involves herself with.

Teresa: I have a flatmate. He was in the rehabilitation centre with me and we're both tenants on the house. He had a slight accident himself.

[Video of Teresa taking out the rubbish]

So yeah, we're basically picking up for one another.

It's a big step from being in a rehabilitation centre.

Danny - Teresa's brother: I think she has really blossomed in her own house.

Doing the things that she does whether it be boxing or visiting Chartwell or visiting family members as well.

She's really enabled herself to grow as a person and I suppose do the normal things that she was able to do before the accident.

[Video of Teresa in the van being driven to the supermarket]

Teresa: I get up at 7.30 in the morning, my carer comes in - showered, done and dusted by 9.30 and yeah find things to do. Mostly out and about in the taxi. Go to Chartwell, been to the library, go into the township, whatever.

[Video of Teresa grocery shopping]

Grocery shopping has been exciting lately because I've learned to pull a grocery trolley around with me which I don't see many people in wheelchairs do.

[Video of Teresa with her trainer boxing]

I love everything about boxing. It's got all different kinds of movement - upper body strength movement.

I turn up there feeling, "Ok, what are we going to do today?"

And when I leave I feel like doing 10 more sessions because that's how great it makes me feel.

Linda: Since she came home she wanted staff here like she had - 24 hours a day - which is understandable and now she's never home. She's happy for the staff to go as soon as they are finished.

[Video of Teresa filling up a water bottle in her kitchen]

She's definitely not finished blossoming, she's still moving. I think she will get to the point where that will possibly be reduced even more and she just does what she wants to do. It's great.

Teresa: I'm happy because I'm in a house where I can be more independent.

Learning to do things how I used to but not quite if you understand.

[Video of Teresa in the supermarket, paying for her groceries]

It gives me a chance to do and try things more than ever. It's just a really good thing for me to be in my own home and out in the community. Being independent again.

I'd like to dedicate my video today to my mother and father and all my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews 'cause they are my strength.

[Video shows a photo of Teresa's parents]


‘It’s a big step from being in a rehabilitation centre. Having whānau stay over – my nieces and nephews, my brothers and sisters, my mum – that’s the best,’ Teresa says.

Teresa’s flatmate Rori was also a resident at Laura Fergusson, so was an ideal choice to fill the third bedroom of the house, built by Accessible Properties.

Teresa’s other flatmate is her cousin Patricia, who does her overnight support. Her other support worker, Vi, who happens to be a distant relative, was interviewed and hired by Teresa and visits during the day.

Teresa found out about CiCL through Linda, from CCS Disability Action. ‘We worked with Teresa to look at this house,' Linda says. 'Together with the staff at Laura Fergusson, we put together the support she required. We supported Teresa to move in and we’ve been there in the background all along.’

Linda says Teresa has changed a lot since moving into her own home. ‘When she came into this home she wanted staff here like she had had (in the rehabilitation centre), 24 hours a day, which is understandable – and now she’s never home. She’s happy for the staff to go as soon as they’ve finished. She just does what she wants to do.’

Teresa’s sister Brenda says she is very proud of Teresa and everything she has achieved. ‘Her life has definitely changed, but she’s still the same person. She’s a very strong and positive person and she’s always loved being among people.’

Her brother Danny says Teresa has ‘blossomed’ since having her own space and has been able to do everyday things.

One of those everyday things is grocery shopping – a task that was previously left to a support worker.

Teresa has proudly conquered pulling the trolley alongside her wheelchair while she shops. ‘You don’t see many other people in wheelchairs doing that,’ she says with a broad grin.

Teresa’s future plans include learning how to use a computer and working as an advocate for people with disabilities. She will also continue her weekly boxing and weight training sessions, which she does with Rori.

Since being in her own home, Teresa has been able to host marae meetings and have whānau and friends stay over.

‘I’m learning to do things how I used to. It gives me a chance to do and try things more than ever. It’s just a really good thing for me to be in my own home and out in my community.’

Choice in Community Living is part of the Ministry of Health’s New Model for Supporting Disabled People. It offers eligible disabled people the opportunity to move out of their family home or a residential facility and into their own home. It also offers choice and control of how people are supported in their own home and community.

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