Spinal cord injured after sleep-walking

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It sounds unbelievable but Brazilian Gisele Nogueira was asleep when she had a terrible accident. Read more about the 35 years old in our interview.

Can you tell us a bit about you?

I am Brazilian. When I was 19 years old I moved to Sydney for 9 months. After that I returned to Brazil, finished my university course in accountancy and analysis of enterprise resource planning.

How was your life before your accident?

Before the accident, the focus of my life was to become successful in my career, taking courses and working hard. I wanted a good life with my family and friends. To travel with them and enjoy spending time with them. And I loved sport, especially swimming and cycling.

What happened on the day of your accident?

My accident was really unusual. I’m a sleep-walker and I fell out of a window into the courtyard of where I lived. I was on the seventh floor. It sounds crazy and like a joke, and like many other funny moments before that in my life, but this one changed my whole world. I broke two vertebras (t11 – t12) and suffered a spinal cord injury.

So you went to bed and woke up in a hospital. How was the time after the accident?

The gratefulness for my life was my first feeling after my accident. I was in the hospital for three long months. I always tried to keep my good humour. 

When did you realize, that you are spinal cord injured?

I realized it in hospital, but I just took it day by day. I stayed strong and was determined to break through boundaries and keep going. The rehabilitation was so important for me. Some functions came back like being able to sit down with good posture, getting my core strong so I can stand up and walk with the help of exoskeletons.

How do you remember the time “fighting back” to normality?

It happened gradually, discovering new ways to do the everyday things that before my accident seemed so easy. After making some changes and adaptations, I'm now able to do the things I love and that make me happy. For example, I like to swim, to ride my hand bike and to go travelling with friends and family.

Unfortunately, for those of us who live in poor countries we also have poor accessibility too and this needs to change. I am forced to avoid places that I’d like to visit, simply because of issues with wheelchair access.

Is there anything you miss from your life before you sustained your injury?

I don’t think that I miss anything in particular, but instead I’ve changed my mindset in order to succeed. I want to keep doing all that is possible and focus on what makes me happy and to also keep believing in the cure for spinal cord injury. It’s a hope that life can be better again. Autonomy is the word.

What are your dreams for your future?

I prefer to live day by day, to live instead of to dream. But overall, my dream is that one day nobody needs to live a restricted life, but instead can live their lives to the full.

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