A YOUNG mum who broke her neck in a freak bouncy-castle accident has taken up kettle bell workouts to gain more independence.
Nicola McDonnell (30) was left in a wheelchair after suffering serious injuries five years ago, but has not let the accident knock her determination to make the best of life.
She had always been involved in sports and now she's back in the gym at a kettle-bell fitness class for her needs.
The Drogheda woman explained how she was left without the use of her legs.
"It was at a friend's Christening and I was showing the kids how to do flips on the bouncy castle.
"I landed and I couldn't get back up. It was a freak accident.
"I couldn't feel my legs or move my upper body. I didn't really think anything of it. I asked for a hand to take me off the bouncy castle and I kept slipping."
An ambulance was called and she was rushed to hospital.
"When I woke up the next day I had had an operation on my neck to put in two rods and a plate to keep my spine in place. I had broken my neck."
Nicola, who has a 13-year-old daughter - Leiticia - explained that despite her terrible injury she still has a positive outlook.
"I have a good attitude to life and am positive and like to keep myself busy."
That attitude helped her through her month-long stay in the Mater hospital and three months at the National Rehabilitation Clinic in Dun Laoghaire.
She had to move back in with her parents Kieran and Antoinette and could no longer work in hotel management.
Nicola always loved being active."I played soccer when I was young and had begun running and going to the gym because my sister had opened a gym."
The accident saw her lose some of the power in her hands but she can use her arms.
She contacted fitness instructor Kieran McDonnell on a recommendation.
That's how Nicola became the inspiration for a kettle-bell class for people in wheelchairs.
Four of the seven students in Kieran's class are wheelchair users, but all have mobility issues and the fitness regime has been adapted for their specific needs.
He said Nicola and her classmates "are all the most motivated and strongest people I have ever met".
"I believe it is the only kettle-bell class for wheelchair users in the world," he added.
At the start Nicola struggled to wheel her chair, and now Kieran said she can wheel it around a GAA pitch.
"I have gained independence and upper-body strength as well as getting enjoyment from the classes," she said.