Riley’s Story

My Ability SDA apartment has helped me feel like me again. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and the independence that comes with it.

Like many young guys my age, I used to take things and people for granted. My accident changed all that.

I became an incomplete quadriplegic at 16. An ordinary after-school swimming session went horribly wrong after I hit my head on a rock and broke my C5/C6 vertebrae. The accident brought on many changes—physical and emotional—but today, four years on, I can confidently say that day also helped me grow as a person. I now have a deeper appreciation for my life and the many kind, caring people in it. 

This hasn’t been an easy road, of course. After the accident, I spent a lot of time in hospital and struggled to grasp what this meant for my future. I owe a lot to my family; they’ve been incredible supporters. When they heard about my accident, they dropped everything to be with me and have stood by my side ever since.

I’m especially grateful for my mum and the countless ways she’s been there for me. She invests a lot of time and energy into caring for me, though, and I often worry over how much she worries about me. As much as I appreciate all she does, it’s important to me that she and the rest of my family have time and space to look after themselves, too. I want my mum to just be my mum, free from all the added caregiver responsibilities. 

I lived at home for a while following my accident, but I soon became eager to get out on my own. Many of my mates were moving out of their family homes and I wanted that same sense of independence, too. The trouble was that I wasn’t sure what, if any, options were available for someone like me. Thankfully, my support coordinator and some family friends connected me to Ability SDA. 

This model of living suits me perfectly. I was especially glad to learn that I could bring my entire support team with me; they’ve become like family to me. In times when my team isn’t around, I get a huge feeling of relief knowing I can easily access the onsite overnight support team. Having this many people that I can trust is a blessing for many reasons, but especially because it means my mum no longer has to be on call day and night. She and I both know I’m in good hands.

I love spending time in my apartment, but during the day I’m seldom here. You’ll often find me out with my sister or my mates at the footy, the RSL down the road, or hopping the train around Sydney. When I’m at home, I love to host. Having a second bedroom has been awesome because friends can spend the night after an evening of Playstation and beers. I’m living life the way I want to, and it feels great. 

Although my friends and family do occasionally stay over, I also have full-time roommates: a red-eyed green tree frog, some samurai fighting fish, two bearded dragons, and a pair of scorpions. I love animals! Being able to bring them to the apartment with me was a huge draw. 

In terms of the layout, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was honestly shocked when I first set foot in this place! Everything is even better than you can imagine because it’s been purpose built for someone like me. I can manoeuvre around the apartment no problem and one day I may even learn to cook so I can make the most of the kitchen. 

My friends and I spend a lot of time up on the rooftop terrace; it’s perfect for barbeques and socialising. I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the other people in the block and us just enjoying life together. 

Don’t get me wrong: I still have dark days. Everyone does. The difference, though, is that I know I’m surrounded by good, supportive people that are just a phone call away. Moving into this apartment really did change my life; I’m so thankful I’m here.

Other Testimonials