If there’s a hell, I’ve been there. Three times, actually—once for every time I died on the operating table.
The first car that hit me knocked me off my motorbike, threw me three metres in the air, and dumped me into the next lane. The second car drove straight over me, tyre tracks across my helmet. It left me a paraplegic.
I was in hospital for about six months and in an induced coma for about three weeks. Even in the coma, I knew in my subconscious that my back was broken and I couldn’t walk.
I’m still here, though. I feel I’m destined for greatness, otherwise I would have died on the road that day.
After my accident I moved back to my home state of NSW assuming there would be accessible housing available to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had no choice but to spend years doing it tough in non-wheelchair-friendly accommodation. Eventually, I ended up in emergency accommodation; it was basically outsourced government housing in a rough, dangerous neighbourhood. I was completely isolated, sitting alone with my music on to drown out what was happening around me. I kept my doors and windows locked at all times. I didn’t feel safe to have my family visit.
Being there made me really depressed. Between that, poor care providers, and continuing health issues, everything was going downhill. I went to my GP to put my hand up for help. He put me in touch with the Hunter Spinal Cord injuries team to try and get me out of the state I was in; through them, I found Sargood in Collaroy. That place turned me around. It’s where I realized there were actually people out there who respected, cared for, and treated people with spinal cord injuries with the quality of care we should be getting. I’ve met some of my best mates there.
Sargood introduced me to SDA, and from there my life really started changing. It’s been about two years going through NDIS applications and waiting for my apartment to be built, but they have supported me the whole time and given me updates on everything as it was happening. It kept me going. My amazing carer, Jen, also helped with the application process. Without people like her, I couldn’t have done it. My only option would have been aged care.
In my life, I’ve had five life-altering events. The first three were the birth of my children (Leigh, Patrick, and Jazmyn). The fourth was my accident. That was a negative change, but I’ve tried to turn it into a positive and now feel like a 10-fold better person. The fifth has been meeting Paul and Angie and ending up in this apartment. I am so blessed; I really feel like this is the year where the universe has opened every door for me and brought everything I could have ever asked for in my paraplegic life. I finally feel I’ve found home.
I have a ceiling hoist in my bedroom that makes everything so much easier for me. Jen helps me strap on my prosthetic legs to support myself so that I can walk around my bed using crutches, basically unassisted apart from the ceiling hoist. I haven’t had an opportunity like this in years. I can’t wait to keep exercising and getting stronger and stronger.
Being here has given me so much more control over my life and my choices. I have a better quality of life and a great team of carers. They’re amazing and positive.
I’ve also met lots of new people in the building. Not just other people with disabilities, but able-bodied people, too. We help each other out.
The surrounding area is amazing, too. I needed to get closer to hospitals and transport because there was nothing near to my emergency housing. I was so isolated back then, but today virtually everything is at my fingertips.