It was a freezing cold Tasmanian night during May while I was driving and after an accidental quick sleepy little nod off I woke cuddling a guard rail in the back of my wagon. The guard rail had no end on it, but I had driven into it. My two children escaped with no injuries, but I was resuscitated, had broken my left femur (thigh bone) and also lost my lower right leg. There were also little cuts and bruises but, blinded by shock, that became irrelevant given the severe broken parts of my body.
During my stay in hospital, I relied on the doctors, nurses and physiotherapist to put me back together. After two months in hospital, it was up to me to continue rebuilding my body. I was determined to continue to be a dancer in any way that I could, and I also wanted to keep my dance studio open.
My name is Marilyne Jackson (nee Gray), and known to most people as Mazza. I loved dancing from an early age and moved from Tasmania to Melbourne to dance. My 3-year visit to Victoria resulted in staying for 12 years before returning to my Tassie home. My dance partner and I danced through the ranks until we were named ‘Australian DanceSport Champions’. Since returning to Tasmania, I have given my time to ‘DanceSport Tasmania’ and organise dance events for our state. I have been teaching ballroom dancing for 23 years and am super proud of my studio dancers and dance family.
I was so passionate to return to my previous life that I actually bent a titanium rod in my left leg trying to dance and keep classes in my studio running. So, ‘Mazza’s the Place of Dance’ is an incredibly special dance studio and I am supported by my two incredibly special daughters. Even though they have now grown up into young ladies, they that have never left my side.
In 2009 I was inducted to the ‘Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women’ amongst 30 others. I had the pleasure of joining some inspiring people at the ceremony and was very proud to accept this recognition. Being chosen as someone giving to the Tasmanian community made me realise how far I had come and the extent of my recovery. It also made me realise that ‘dance’ is not only my tool to recovery, but my desire to give back to our community is just as powerful and important.
My family, friends, dance studio families and my two girls were my biggest supporters. I can never thank these people enough, but it was up to me to be strong for my daughters and make sure that their lives continued to be as normal as possible. In front of them I was always positive, but I would cry in the shower as soon as they went to school, then pull myself together and off I’d go again. It was a difficult time.
A few years after my accident I became a single mum. Life became about survival, making a good life for my daughters, managing a home, and keeping my dance studio going. Life was extremely difficult, but I never gave up. There were many hard dark days, but I always said “deal with what is put in front of you”.
My mum received many midnights phone calls and often mum would say “put the kettle on and we will have a cuppa tea together”. Mum made those long nights shorter.
So, while this might seem like a sad story it also comes with a successful conclusion.
Over the years I’ve developed knowledge and skills that might assist others. Learn how your body works. Understand any of the new parts of your body to the best of your ability, and stretch and strengthen. Make it your job to look after your body and it will reward you with more possibilities. It’s not easy but essential to listen to your body.
My story is to give others hope. Everyone experiences pain, even a headache is your pain that you feel. There is always someone in more pain than yourself. Try to surround yourself with positive people. Find a way to work towards what you dream to do. It may not be what you thought you would have achieved in the past, but you can still make your dreams come true in a unique way. It is so important to have someone to chat to and share fears and dreams and when communicating with others listen to how they feel, so they know you are not just self-focused but there to support them too.
Limbs 4 Life is an amazing platform to share stories with people similar to yourself. I wish I had met this group earlier.