she’s ready to prove her­strengh

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Contents -

At the age of 15, Stacey Johnsen felt like her life was over. Her fu­ture as a com­pet­i­tive rower had been snatched away from her, and she found her­self trapped in a wheel­chair and bat­tling de­pres­sion as doc­tors told her she may never walk again.

But fast-for­ward 14 years and the bub­bly blue-haired beauty from In­ver­cargill is now a mum-of-three, plus a pow­er­lifter with her own body-pierc­ing busi­ness and a life­style blog. She also re­cently lost 68kg and is now com­pet­ing on TheGreatKi­wiBakeOff.

“I’m sure a lot of peo­ple are shocked at what I do,” laughs the 29-year-old. “I don’t look like your or­di­nary baker.”

But her jour­ney to well­ness has been far from easy. She’s faced countless op­er­a­tions and years of chronic pain af­ter be­ing born with a con­gen­i­tal dis­lo­ca­tion of the hips known as “clicky hips”.

“When I was a teenager, I would run or even just walk and my hips would dis­lo­cate,” ex­plains Stacey. “I had my first surgery the day af­ter my 15th birth­day. It took seven hours. They cut my pelvis in three places, ro­tated it and bolted

it in place, but dur­ing the surgery, I be­came crit­i­cal. My lungs col­lapsed, I had blood clots and I was code blue – I prac­ti­cally died.”

Stacey was rushed into an ur­gent MRI, where they dis­cov­ered her en­tire pelvis had shat­tered and col­lapsed.

“They took me back into surgery to fix it and the doc­tor said it was worse than any car ac­ci­dent he’d ever seen,” she con­tin­ues. “They weren’t sure if I would walk again. There was a pos­si­bil­ity I was go­ing to be in a wheel­chair for the rest of my life.

“I had in­fec­tion af­ter in­fec­tion. I had an open hip wound for a year and I had com­pletely no feel­ing in my leg. I thought my world was over. I was hos­pi­talised three times for at­tempted sui­cide.”

Af­ter al­most a year in a wheel­chair, Stacey was even­tu­ally able to walk again and she re­turned to school, but things were never the same.

“They put off do­ing surgery on my other hip be­cause the first one went so badly, but the pain got worse and they put me on stronger med­i­ca­tion. I was high as a kite on mor­phine all the time. In the end, my school said I was too much of a nui­sance, so Mum

made the choice to pull me out.”

Things started look­ing up for Stacey when she be­gan sell­ing her own jew­ellery, which led to study in beauty ther­apy and even­tu­ally learn­ing to do body pierc­ing. “Now I can see there’s so much more to life,” she tells. “I’ve got a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude. If some­one tells me no, I’ll try to prove them wrong.”


De­spite doc­tors say­ing she would never be able work full-time, drive a man­ual car or have chil­dren, Stacey has done all of those things and is now mother to Oliver, eight, Madi­son, seven, and fouryear-old Lily-Mae.

“When I got preg­nant with Oliver, they didn’t know if my hips would be able to carry him. My doc­tor booked a Cae­sarean and I can­celled it to at­tempt a nat­u­ral birth. In the end, it re­sulted in an emer­gency C-sec­tion, but at least I tried!”

Life was back on track, but there was one thing that be­gan to re­ally trou­ble Stacey – her weight. She ex­plains, “One side ef­fect of my med­i­ca­tion was that I felt hun­gry all the time. I’d have two healthy din­ners, but I was still al­ways starv­ing. I couldn’t ex­er­cise much, then I had preg­nan­cies and poly­cys­tic ovaries, and the weight just crept on.”

Af­ter 12 years of wait­ing, Stacey be­came too over­weight for her sec­ond hip op­er­a­tion.

“I lived in chronic pain. I had to lose 50 ki­los, so they sug­gested a gas­tric by­pass, but be­cause I had no other health prob­lems, I was too healthy in their eyes!”

Af­ter a long bat­tle, Stacey even­tu­ally se­cured fund­ing and it was at this time that she started her blog My Dis­abled Jour­ney to doc­u­ment her progress. Since hav­ing her gas­tric-sleeve surgery al­most two years ago, she’s now lost over 68kg and gained over 2500 on­line fol­low­ers.

“I wanted to show peo­ple that hav­ing the weight-loss surgery was not the easy way out,” she tells.

Just af­ter turn­ing 28, Stacey fi­nally had her sec­ond hip op­er­a­tion, which went much bet­ter than the first. A few weeks later, while she was do­ing weights at the gym in a wheel­chair, some­one ap­proached her about try­ing body­build­ing.

“I was so scared,” she re­calls. “It was my first time ever in a bikini, with all my scars from my C-sec­tions and surg­eries, and my ex­cess skin was my big­gest worry.”

But 18 months on, she took out the ti­tle of Ms South­land Physique and has now started pow­er­lift­ing, with her eyes set on qual­i­fy­ing for na­tion­als next year.

“It’s cool to find some­thing I’m good at again,” she smiles. “I used to love row­ing ev­ery day and it was rough when I had to stop. Now I’ve found that pas­sion again.” In fact, Stacey’s be­come so in­vested in her pow­er­lift­ing, she’s post­poned sev­eral more op­er­a­tions.

She ex­plains, “I’m wait­ing

on a hip re­place­ment on my left side now and I need the screws re­moved in my right one. But I’ve post­poned both surg­eries as they’d mean I’ll never be able to squat again.”

Though Stacey will face pain in her hips for the rest of her life, she re­fuses to let it stop her from be­ing a good role model for her kids. “I want to prove to them that you can do what you want,” she smiles. “I’m show­ing that girls can be strong, mus­cu­lar and bake cakes too!”

What a dif­fer­ence!! AfterAf years of health is­sues, Stacey changed her life and went on to win a body­build­ing ti­tle (above).

Kids (from left) Madi­son, Lily-Mae and Oliver love see­ing their mum bake up a storm on the re­al­ity show.

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