“I just choose to be a ‘glass half full’ girl and welcome adversity as means to improve myself. I’ve got a second chance at life and people to encourage.”

Angie Dhondee was the Director of a Human Resources firm in Melbourne. She was ambitious, drawn to the allure of local high society, and eager to “make it”.

Angie’s high-flying career all started when the sales job she left school for began to feel uninspiring and boring. Seeking inspiration, she picked up a copy of How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This much-loved book changed her life, and she began networking, mingling, and climbing the corporate ladder. Aided by her wicked sense of humour and vivacious nature, she fit perfectly into elite circles, cementing her status as a socialite.

However, when Angie suffered two strokes at 29 years old, the trajectory of her life was profoundly altered. Her take on this life-changing experience might not be what you’d expect.

“My strokes changed me for the better,” Angie says. “They were meant to happen – they were a wake-up call.”

After her strokes, Angie stayed in hospital for eight months. She was completely blind and unable to walk for most of that time. While some of her vision eventually returned, her ability to walk never did. Ever the optimist, she quickly made peace with her new body.

During her recovery, her parents moved to Melbourne to help reconfigure her home while kind-hearted neighbours supported her as she adjusted to her new lifestyle. She forged lasting connections with many of them and they still keep in touch today.

Interestingly, Angie’s strokes created massive changes in her personality. Where she used to chase career success and clout, she now has a deep appreciation for genuine human connection, jazz music, comfort, and travelling – things that weren’t on her radar before.

“I’ve gone from three-inch heels to Hush Puppies, and I’m OK with that – they’re way more comfortable anyway!” she says.

Having lived some of her life without a disability, Angie notices a difference in the way she’s treated now.

“Now that I’m living with disability, the people I meet are more welcoming and friendlier,” Angie says. “I love life – I meet real people now.”

Angie still loves socialising, though. She enjoys attending our Lifestyle Lunches and our Member Advisory Group, where she can get to know her fellow customers and hear their stories. She appreciates that many of them have been through so much as well. For Angie, this is what it means to belong.

Of course, it follows that Angie’s lifestyle these days looks very different to her younger years, but that’s fine by her. She finds a lot of pleasure in the little things: cups of tea, stopping to smell the roses (literally – she’s an avid gardener), and watching birds play in the birdbath in her yard. She also loves spending time with family, friends, and her husband, who she married a few years ago.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Angie’s spirit. She was and still is determined to squeeze every drop of joy out of life, drawing on a quote from iconic disability advocate Helen Keller to illustrate her point.

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn.”