Nicole McLean's story

In 2002, Nicole had been in Bali for just six hours when she was caught up in one of the explosions.

I grew up in Montrose, out in the East of Melbourne and pretty much led a normal life. I danced for about ten years, I was a cheerleader and all that sort of stuff and just loved it. Then once I got to probably about 16, I gave it all away.  I think that's when parties and boys and all that sort of hit the scene and I wasn't interested in the dancing and things like that anymore. So it got to about 2002 and my girlfriend and I decided we were going to go to Bali.

I'd been there before. She hadn't and she was having some dramas with her boyfriend and I said I think we need to get away, let's get away. Six hours into our trip we decided that we were going to Paddy's nightclub. So we're wandering up the road and we're in the nightclub for about 45 minutes, not even long enough to have a drink and a suicide bomber walked into the nightclub and set off the bomb.

I remember a hot flash coming towards me and something hot and heavy hitting me and sending me off my feet. So two weeks later after the bomb, they amputated my arm.

I don't really remember thinking “oh my gosh they’ve taken my arm”. I think your body looks after you and does sort of protect you in some ways and I knew that it was the best thing for me. So basically in my mind I thought “okay it's gone, now I have to learn to live a different life” and I think from that moment on I did.

I was in hospital for just over 12 weeks and I just wanted my life back so I had to learn how to walk, I had to learn how to brush my hair or brush my teeth, eat my dinner, everything was new. The things that I could do, I did, and I did them loud and proud. Things I couldn't do, I pushed away, because I thought if I concentrate on these things I can't do, that's going to depress me and upset me and I knew that would come in time, I just had to be patient and I'm not patient so that's why I pushed them away and I just thought gradually over time they'll come.

I had six months off work and then I decided that it was enough and I jumped back into work again. The same with driving a car, I was in rehab and I decided “I can drive a car, what's wrong with me”. I was really thriving like I just wanted my life back and so normal things just started happening again and I think once you get into the motion of it, it all just falls into place.

The chap that made the prosthetic for me said to me “Okay, so what sort of arm do you want?”. I said I didn't know, I didn't know what sort of arm I wanted. I said all I knew as I wanted an arm and he said “Well you probably find you don't. I said “what are you talking about? I'm not going to walk around the street like this, people will stare!” and he said “Okay that's fine, we'll make you one, but because you've lost so much they're quite heavy and you may find it's a bit of a hindrance”. So we just went with the basic model first, it was a cosmetic arm, just to sort of get me by. I wore it a couple of times and when I went out in public and things like that, but as soon as I got home it was like taking your jeans off and putting tracksuit pants on you know, it was just a relief. Like taking those high heels off and putting your slippers on it was a relief, so then I pretty much got rid of it.

I had already met Luke. The night before I left to go to Bali he confessed his love for me and I said to him “Oh we’ll talk about it when I get back” and I got back the way I did and yeah I sort of pushed him away. I didn't think that he needed to be with me anymore I thought he was only 25 he doesn't have to go through life with all my baggage now. But he didn't leave he kept coming into the hospital every day and one thing led to another, and we ended up getting married.

It was 2007 and Luke and I had sort of started talking about having children and I knew I always wanted them. I knew that I could love a child and raise a child, but doing the day-to-day duties, the caregiving, I was really a bit uncertain about.  Then the time came and I was due to have him and I ended up having an emergency caesarean and as soon as they lifted him up over that curtain I knew that I was his mother and I was going to do absolutely everything I could by myself to look after him.

Basically, I can do everything for myself, makeup, the works, the only thing I can't do that annoys me so much and it's so stupid, is putting my hair up with an elastic tie. I can use a clip but I can't put my hair up with an elastic tie.

Two hundred and two people died that night and I think if I was one of them and I was up there looking down at this girl crying herself stupid in her bedroom because she'd lost an arm, I'd be really annoyed, because I was given that chance. I was given that chance to go out and lead a life and lead a normal life.

So many things have happened in the last 10 years, my girlfriends have had babies, gotten married and family members have gotten married and so many beautiful things in life that we all probably take for granted. But now I don't take those things for granted.

You'll see me having a little quiet teary because in the back of my mind I'm thinking “I might not have been here for that”, so it makes those moments so special that we do all take for granted.