A spinal chord injury and heartbreaking fertility issues have not dampened the sunny attitude of Dungog's Philippa Hudson

Attitude:
Attitude: "I'm grateful I've got this opportunity to be involved in so many things," says Philippa Hudson. Picture: Marina Neil

There's no problem that cannot be solved according to Philippa Hudson.

And if anyone has the life experience to credibly give that advice, it's this lady.

Just weeks before her wedding, Philippa sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident in 1994. While she eventually married (and recently amicably divorced) the intervening years saw the heartbreak of many miscarriages and a failed attempt at surrogacy.

But anyone who meets Philippa knows there's much more to her story behind that wide smile.

She eventually had a child through IVF - her miracle boy Harry. Throw in completing her Masters in Education and various roles in the community and this Dungog treasure on the cusp of turning 50 is continuing to inspire.

Philippa now works as a Well-Being Support Officer at Dungog High School and the chaplain at Dungog Public School.

"My role involves being an approachable adult for our students to connect with at school, providing a listening ear, and a caring presence," she said.

I really believe that no problem is unsolvable - there is always someone who can help.

Philippa Hudson

"Put simply, I will be there for anyone who feels that they'd like to come and have an informal chat about good or bad things that are going on in their life."

She said the reasons students come in to her office range from bullying issues, things going on at home such as a separation or divorce, friendship or relationship issues, family members who are unwell or who have passed away, cyber-bullying issues or upcoming exams.

"I really believe that no problem is unsolvable - there is always someone who can help," she said.

"Sometimes, talking to a trusted adult is the first step in solving what's going on and helping you feel better."

She is aided in this work at the high school by a special member of staff - her golden retriever Charlie. Charlie is one of two pets as therapy dogs introduced to the school this year - the other is a schnauzer named Harvey.

"I've seen Charlie sit there for four hours letting a child cry and pat him. He's just made for the job.

"We've had a few golden retrievers but Charlie, he is special."

She takes him into the support unit classes at the high school where the students read to him.

Philippa's wheelchair is another special tool.

"Just talking to the kids, firstly they are really interested in the wheelchair, so like Charlie it starts a conversation," she said.

"I've always had kids just come and spill to me as they can see I've gone through something, it's quite obvious.

"Many, many people have been through stuff. People who have been through domestic violence for example have it much harder than sitting in a wheelchair."

Not only does her wheelchair start the conversation but students who may have experienced trauma can see that she has too.

"I have bad days where nothing goes right. But tomorrow, or the next hour can be better, you don't know what's around the corner. Kids going through tough times can see, without me having to say it, that I got through it."

Her journey to this point started one Thursday afternoon in March, just weeks out from her planned 1994 wedding to Peter Hudson. A school teacher on her way home she came across a piece of road at Brookfield that had just been resurfaced and there were no warning signs.

Her car flipped and she sustained the spinal cord injury. "Lucky" to not have any brain damage Philippa spent six months at Royal North Shore Hospital.

She credits her family with getting her through that period. She recalls her sister Julia, who was at university in Sydney at the time, was at her bedside every day. Her other siblings were still at school in Dungog.

"The support from both family and friends and Dungog in general was pretty touching," she said.

She came home towards the end of September just in time for the local pool - which she and Peter managed at the time - to open.

When asked how she feels like when she drives through Brookfield now she is typically positive.

"There's water accumulated there now, it's a dam where my car landed and I think gee, wasn't I just so lucky, I would have drowned."

Philippa and Peter eventually married and while they investigated surrogacy their plans for a family were unclear.

"At that stage we thought let's just get a dog and put it on the backburner."

Medical improvements then saw her be able to carry a child and the couple attempted IVF. Many harrowing years of heartbreak with several miscarriages gave way for their miracle - Harry, now aged 11 - to safely arrive.

Dungog High School Principal Stephen Harper said Philippa and her work are an essential part of the school's well being program.

"She's got a great rapport with both the staff and the students and is a tremendous example for our students of someone overcoming significant adversity," he said.

"She's always got something productive to say and to add to the conversation."

Attitude: "I'm grateful I've got this opportunity to be involved in so many things". Picture: Marina Neil

Attitude: "I'm grateful I've got this opportunity to be involved in so many things". Picture: Marina Neil

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