When your big sister moves out of home, it’s usually cause for celebration. But for Shortland Street’s Sally Martin, her autistic sister Bridget’s big move was extra special – because the family wasn’t sure if it would ever happen.
In what has been the biggest change for the tight-knit family, Bridget (30) has shifted out of home and into her own place – and Sally couldn’t be prouder. “This has been a huge step for Bridget [who has Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism],” Sally says, giving her a squeeze.
“We didn’t know at first how she’d go living by herself, but so far she’s been going very well.” It’s been an amazing few months for the sisters, with Sally especially saying she can’t quite believe how well things are going for the pair.
“Ten years ago, I never would have imagined that she’d be living by herself or that I’d be up in Auckland doing what I’m doing. We’ve been so lucky,” says Sally.
It has been a massive learning curve, but with the help of her support workers, her mum and dad – who live just around the corner – as well as Sally, Bridget’s turned her adorable two-bedroom house into a home.
“It’s been great,” beams Bridget. “I’ve been out and bought some furniture, and I got a new duvet for the spare room.”
“There’s been Trade Me purchases too,” adds Sally. “A bright red chair from Palmerston North turned up the other day.”
Bridget, who struggles with crowds and changes in her routines, has found she likes living with just her dog Harry, and relishes the independence she’s craved for so long. “I really like living by myself,” she says.
“Yeah, we both love it,” Sally agrees. “We both have friends over during the day, but it’s so nice to come home and watch your own shows on TV, and have your food in the fridge, and wear what you want!”
Due to a crazy filming schedule, Sally – who plays bubbly nurse Nicole Miller on the long-running soap – hasn’t had the chance to venture down from Auckland to Bridget’s place since helping her move in, but can’t wait to see the product of her sister’s interior decorating spree.
“She’s been going incredibly well with it all,” says Sally. “She’s quite the domestic goddess. “She’s got herself a Christmas tree and everything, and spent hours the other week shopping for her decorations.”
Christmas will be that little bit more special this year for the Martin family, as they gather together to celebrate all of their successes in a very Kiwi way. “We’re a big seafood family, so we’ll be tucking into the crayfish – if Dad manages to catch some!” says Sally.
Despite living in two different cities, the sisters are very close, speaking on the phone nearly every day. But while Bridget is making huge strides down in Wellington, Sally admits she still worries about her sister. “Not because I have to worry, or that I think she’s incapable, but I’m really protective of her – I always have been.
“It has been such a huge change for her and our family, but you do have to go at these things with optimism and positivity, so I try!”
Along with Sally setting up a mobile-phone plan so she and Bridget can talk and text each other as much as they like, Bridget has a lot of support during the week so she can have a schedule firmly in place.
“Getting her day-to-day life sorted is a priority,” explains Sally. “Certain days will be grocery shopping, others will be cooking dinner and freezing meals for later. “But she gets the most support from my parents. Their lives revolve around her and hers around them. They’re just amazing like that, so she has that level of comfort.”
With a long overdue catch-up on the cards, both sisters say they can’t wait to finally see each other again and exchange their pressies. “This year will be different. I think it’ll be one night at Mum and Dad’s, then another at Bridget’s. She’s excited about me staying over,” Sally grins.
“But Bridget will be the first to give out her presents on Christmas morning – that’s for sure!”