LAUREN Parker was looking forward to returning to Port Macquarie to compete at a place that is very special to her.
The short two-and-a-half hour drive up the Pacific Highway from Newcastle is one Parker has previously done twice as an Ironman Australia Port Macquarie competitor.
“Port Macquarie is my favourite place to race because I did my first Ironman race there in 2014,” she said.
“It really does have a special place in my heart.”
But the Newcastle triathlete now faces the prospect of never walking again after a freak accident last month when she was preparing for the event.
April 18, 2017 will be the date Parker remembers as the day her life changed forever when she became paralysed from the waist down.
“Two weeks ago I was the fittest I’ve ever been, uninjured and had the best preparation so for this to happen is just devastating,” the triathlete said.
Parker was tipped by many to be a strong chance of finishing on the podium on Sunday.
The 28-year-old was 40 kilometres into a training session in her home town of Newcastle when both tyres on her bike burst.
“That never happens – there was no reason for it to happen,” she said.
The triathlete was sent flying through the air at 45 kilometres an hour and into a guard rail on the side of the road.
The end result was horrific – a broken scapula, broken ribs, a punctured lung, fractured pelvis and a broken back in the T12 vertebrae with severe spinal damage.
The original diagnosis from doctors was a one per cent chance she would walk again.
Port Macquarie is my favourite place to race because I did my first Ironman race there in 2014.Newcastle triathlete Lauren Parker
In a split second on April 18, her dream of winning a world championship as a professional triathlete turned into a fight for her life.
“I have all the hope in the world that I can walk again; that’s my dream and I’ll do everything I can to walk again,” she said.
“But it’s really hard because I feel like my life has completely gone. I was such an active person – I went from training 35 hours a week to nothing.”
That was when Parker dropped a bombshell.
If she couldn't walk again, what would she have left?
Angry. Scared. Concerned.
Parker admitted she went through a full range of emotions when she realised the magnitude of her injuries.
“I thought I don’t want to be here and I can’t live like this if I can’t walk again,” she said.
“I was very angry and wanted to die, I don’t want to live like this in a chair for the rest of my life in the pain I’m in.
It’s really hard because I feel like my life has completely gone.Lauren Parker
“All my sporting dreams have just come to an end.”
But for now, she’s focused on proving everyone wrong.
“If there’s a chance, I want to be in that one per cent of people who walk again. Doctors always go for the worst-case scenario.”
I was very angry and thought I want to die, I don’t want to live like this in a chair for the rest of my life in the pain I’m in.Lauren Parker