A SKY-DIVING accident has left 26-year-old Kate Watts from Vincentia with irreparable spinal injuries.
Her extremely painful condition is not always visible to the average person but she is heavily reliant on her disability parking permit.
Mrs Watts said since her accident 18 months ago, she has faced hostility when parking in disabled spots.
“It’s really shocked me,” she said.
“I’ve been questioned at least half a dozen times for parking in disabled parking spots and a few times I have walked away crying, not wanting to justify my situation to a complete stranger.
“I went to my surgeon yesterday in hopes my injuries had healed enough so I could get surgery, but they told me I have inoperable and irreversible damage.”
When Mrs Watts wanted to experience the thrill of jumping out of a plane in Gosford like so many before her, little did she know the 200 kilograms strapped to her back would change her life forever.
“It was horrible,” she said.
“I held my breath.
“The only indication I had that something was wrong was when my tandem instructor started to swear.”
Mrs Watts has four smashed discs and broken vertebrae in her back and suffers a stretched spinal cord and rotated hip.
“There are days I’m in a wheelchair, but more often than not I try to keep moving until I can’t anymore. The sad thing is unless you are on crutches or in a wheelchair, in the eyes of community you aren’t disabled,” Mrs Watts said.
“When people question me about parking in disabled spots it makes me question myself – ‘Am I unwell enough to use this parking spot?’ There are people worse off than I am.
“But I know how I’m going to be if I push myself too far.”
Mrs Watts said she often felt so confronted by the issue she chose not to leave her house.
“I have so many friends who don’t know what’s happened to me,” she said.
“I don’t want to go through explaining my situation every time I leave the house and knowing that someone will judge me is confronting, so I’ve found the house is the only safe place.
“I just wish people understood there are lots of things like back injuries that aren’t visible. You can’t always see when someone’s body is crashing.”
Mrs Watts hoped speaking out would help educate the community about disabilities.
“I think it would be really good to have something like an awareness day,” she said.
“It would be great to one day push for more resources and disabled parking spaces in Nowra too.”