Greg Willmott worked hard as a council truck driver in Regional WA covering over 1500km per week. Greg often worked 12-13 hour days and he lived with constant fatigue. One morning it caught up with him.
Whilst driving to work after very little sleep Greg crashed his car and sustained a permanent spinal cord injury (SCI) resulting in quadriplegia. Looking back he realised he was only getting 4 hours sleep most nights prior to his accident; he was chronically fatigued with his alertness when driving always compromised. Greg’s story can apply to anyone operating a motor vehicle when fatigued. Slower reaction times, reduced attention and the inability to process information are all side effects of fatigue that can have life changing consequences.
Often people living with spinal cord injury (SCI) have to deal with a number of other serious health complications. Unfortunately the lack of sensation makes people with SCI especially vulnerable to skin care issues. Shortly after leaving hospital following his initial injury Greg developed a pressure injury.
Without intervention pressure injuries can get progressively worse, forming an open area and then a crater. So a small broken skin patch can progress to a potentially life-threatening wound involving extensive tissue death and infection.
Damage to the skin after spinal cord injury can have a huge detrimental effect on health and well-being. Pressure injuries can result in patients being confined to bed for days, weeks, even months and years. Additionally, any break in the skin can be an opening for infection to enter. Keeping off one area can put other areas at risk, so one pressure injury can lead to another.
In Greg’s case this has meant spending over 10 years on his side in bed whilst waiting for surgery, or whilst waiting for his wounds and skin to recover after treatment.
The good news is that Greg has now healed enough so that for a few hours a week he can get up out of bed and sit in his wheelchair. Greg chooses to use this precious time to deliver PBF injury prevention presentations; raising awareness of the risks of working and driving whilst fatigued to help reduce death and injury.
PBF Australia was engaged by Southern Metropolitan Regional Council (SMRC) to present at their Safety Review event. SMRC develop environmentally sustainable waste management solutions for the community and operate the Regional Resource Recovery Centre (RRRC) in Canning Vale, WA.
Greg’s experiences and previous job meant his story was a perfect fit with SMRC; and he was joined by his son Jarred who saw him present for the very first time.
“Fatigue is a serious issue for workers who don’t realise what’s at stake” said Greg. His injury prevention presentation was well received and his story helped the SMRC team realise the value of what they have in life and the fact it can be lost by something as simple as driving tired.
Following the presentation Greg, Jarred and PBF’s Symon Still and Katie Stokes joined SMRC for a BBQ and a chat.
At PBF Australia we are committed to helping people build the skills and confidence to move forward after a spinal cord injury. We provide employment opportunities for more than 40 paraplegic and quadriplegic working members in administration, injury prevention and peer support roles. Greg is an inspiring member of our team.