Injury Prevention Speakers – Eastern States
PBF Injury Prevention Manager
“Always focus on what you are doing.”
Life in general was fantastic and 2002 was going to be a great year! I was a self-employed tradie and we had just come back from a long overseas holiday with the plan to move to Australia.
On 16 May 2002 I had finished work early, so as a keen triathlete decided to head out on a training ride leading up to a local competition. This is the day my world was turned upside down. Following a road accident I suffered permanent damage to my spinal cord resulting in paraplegia. Emergency surgery for 10-12 hours pinned fractures in both my neck and spine. My rehabilitation program took 8 months in hospital, including 8 weeks in a collar to repair the broken bones in my neck.
During this time my entire life was put on hold, along with my family and friends. As an incredibly motivated person, things eventually moved forward and my dream to live in Australia was fulfilled. Being a little sports mad I now enjoy the sports of para-triathlon and hand-cycling, as they give me the freedom of movement that I desire.
Professionally I hope I make an impact on everyone who hears my story through my role with PBF Australia and our injury prevention programs.
“Accidents don’t discriminate – they can happen to anyone and everyone.”
I was a 26 year old plumber, married with 2 young daughters. I had a house, 2 cars and had just won the Bodybuilding Qld State Championships. The 20th January was a 40 degree Sunday afternoon. I had been working overtime since the Friday night, because a large storm had blown through the centre of Brisbane causing considerable damage to the buildings. At the end of what was virtually three days of overtime, I was up working on a fibro roof.
I remember feeling safe as I walked along the nail lines, but that is the last thing I can recall. The security guard found me inside the building with 3 broken ribs, a punctured lung filling with blood and a spinal cord injury. I must have lost my balance and fallen approximately 8 metres.
Whilst in hospital I remember thinking how was I going to make a living, pay off my house, and put food on the table? Over the next 10 months I lost everything including my marriage. It has been a long road but I have come to realise I am one of the lucky ones. I have competed at the Paralympics in power lifting, owned a gym and re-married. I live as a paraplegic sharing my story with workplaces, with the purpose of creating awareness to prevent this from happening to anyone else.
“I take safety much more seriously than I did before, because I now know and live with the consequences of being blasé about safety.”
Before his accident Paul was working as a site supervisor at a water reservoir on the Sunshine Coast in QLD. He and his girlfriend were planning on starting a family. He enjoyed riding motorbikes, fishing, camping and travelling.
Paul was under a lot of pressure at work. When packing up for the day he decided to do the right thing by securing the site, as there had been a theft the night before. The crew knew that the hook on the crane they were using was faulty, as they had tried to fix it months earlier.
Whilst moving the load of form ply, a 480kg pallet of bolts slipped off the top and hit Paul on the back of his shoulders. He now lives as a paraplegic and conducts workplace presentations sharing the details of his incident. Paul’s presentation addresses how his incident could have been prevented if he had taken more of a stand about proper safety standards at work.
“I believe that safety is very important and the responsibility of everyone. Cutting corners to save time or staying up late so you don’t miss out on things in life may seem like a good idea at the time, but things can go wrong when you are tired or don’t follow correct procedure.”
Jason was 21 years old and working as a shot firer in a satellite mine near Kalgoorlie. The mine was shut down early that day due to torrential rain, so he asked his supervisor if he could go back to Kalgoorlie where he lived with his girlfriend.
Before starting at the mine, Jason was a karate 2nd Dan Black Belt and had represented Australia. He was looking forward to getting home to train at the local karate club. The trip back to Kalgoorlie consisted of 20km of dirt road before the main road. Jason failed to put his seat belt on and about 20 minutes into the trip (doing around 80km on a straight stretch of road) his car hit an old set of tyre tracks and he lost control rolling the car three times.
Diagnosed with a permanent spinal cord injury, Jason was determined to get on the road to recovery as quickly as possible. He conducts workplace presentations for PBF, highlighting that safety is not restricted to the work site. The effects of fatigue and not following the correct procedure can result in life changing injury at any time.
“An accident can just happen – even if you have not been the one to cause it.”
Program: Road (QLD)
It was just another great weekend in 2007 on the bikes with my mates. We were not even riding hard, it was a casual weekend. I was a self-employed photographer for 10-15 years, married with a daughter and trying for another child. I loved cycling, trained daily and competed in local races. I loved spending time with the family outdoors, camping and gardening.
As a consequence of my trail bike accident, I sustained broken ribs, a punctured lung, 4 broken vertebrae and a severed spinal cord. I am now a complete T7 paraplegic and share my story as part of PBF’s Injury Prevention Road Programs.
“Youth, inexperience and a country dirt road resulted in disaster for me.”
Program: Road (QLD)
I had just finished year 12 when the decision to attend a mate’s father’s funeral changed my life forever. Driving 530km didn’t seem daunting at all – I was 17, had my licence and all the confidence in the world. A long country dirt road was my downfall. I lost control of my vehicle in loose gravel, careered through a paddock fence rolling 6 or 7 times. The driver’s door opened and the top half of my body was bounced against the hard dirt as the car rolled.
A fractured skull, head injuries, fractures to C6 & C7, collapsed lungs and a stroke were my initial injuries. Four months in hospital, another six months in a rehabilitation hospital, then open heart surgery. I left hospital in a wheelchair, paralysed down my left side. Over the next 5 years I managed to graduate to a calliper, leg braces and finally a walking stick.
I currently work as a Teacher’s Aide, drive, swim, and socialise with friends – but I have to contend with people drawing conclusions about my ability or disability. By sharing my story I hope that I can prevent young people from making silly mistakes and taking risks when driving.
“Being in a serious car accident has dramatically changed my life. I am now more aware of the dangers of the road and the responsibility of each person to drive safely.”
Program: Road/Youth (NSW)
I was 19 years old, just graduated high school and working as an assistant to a real estate agent. My dream to sell my first property at 19 came true in March 2014. That night I went out with friends to celebrate, however things quickly got out of hand.
It was 3am and raining. My boyfriend of the time was angry when he came to pick me up. We fought, he was distracted and consequently lost control of the car at speed on a wet road. We headed straight for a pole and the car smashed into it. Instantly I was paralysed from C6/C7.
In hospital I knew things were serious when I saw my dad and sister in tears. I woke from surgery to be told by the doctor that I would never walk again. The realisation of this and the journey has been hard. I am getting more and more independent day by day, attending gym sessions, physio and other rehabilitation programs.
“I remember thinking I’ve really done it this time. I can’t move anything and I’ve messed up mine and my family’s lives. I needed to smile, push forward to make it as easy on them as possible.”
Program: Youth (QLD)
A girlfriend invited me to the Food and Wine Festival. As a busy mum and chemistry teacher at Ormiston College, it wasn’t something I normally got to do. I ran around Saturday morning completing all of my chores, so consequently didn’t have a chance to eat breakfast.
After the Festival I came home by train. The neighbours were having a gathering and I decided to join them. While navigating the side gate at my house, I fell and landed awkwardly. Instantly I realised something was very wrong – I had broken the third vertebrae (C3) in my neck and severed my spinal cord. My husband Michael found me. At hospital I underwent an emergency 8 hour operation to stabilise the vertebra. A day that had started out with such happy expectations, ended with our future being turned upside down.
I am a Complete Quadriplegic and am in a chin controlled wheelchair with the need for a full time carer. I don’t know what the future holds, but I still believe in grasping and running with opportunities when they arise. I became involved in PBF Australia and work with them to raise awareness of how easily spinal cord injury can happen.
“What Doesn’t Break You Makes You Stronger.”
Program: Road/Youth (NSW)
On the night of my injury I was 18 years old. We had been drinking and decided to go to a nightclub. After an hour or so we caught the courtesy bus and were dropped at the end of the street of a friends place.
It was about a 10-15 minute walk or 2-3 minute drive to their house, so I rang to ask for a lift.
When they arrived my friend jumped in the passenger seat and I got in the back. I neglected to put on a seatbelt as it was “just around the corner” and I thought I would be fine. Unfortunately the driver lost control on the only corner and we hit a telegraph pole front on.
We were only in the car for literally 10 seconds.
Both the driver and my friend were fine, but I broke my neck (C6 vertebrae) and my spinal cord – I am a quadriplegic.
“Even with good planning, nothing prepares you for the choices people make whilst they are on the road.”
Program: Road (NSW)
It was Boxing Day 1989, I had recently finished my HSC and my family planned to drive to Adelaide for a 21st birthday party on New Year’s Eve. We never made it past Gundagai…
Another driver fell asleep at the wheel and came onto our side of the highway hitting my uncle’s car head-on. My parent’s car was in front of us and managed to swerve out of the way. I was a passenger sitting behind my uncle’s seat and took the brunt of the impact resulting in an L2 Spinal Cord Injury. My life changed forever. I not only lost the use of my legs but I lost my uncle in a blink of an eye.
I quickly realised that I have become an educator whether I want to be or not. Through education I am able to knock down the barriers that pre-conceived ideas about spinal cord injury bring. Through being open and able to talk about my crash, I can encourage people to make better choices to prevent it happening to them. I also want to teach them to see the person before the wheelchair.
“The effects on my family and friends were devastating. We knew nothing about spinal cord injury and had to learn as we went along.”
Program: Youth (QLD)
I was playing the position of Lock for the North Devils in my usual rugby league football match. I went into a tackle, unfortunately put my head in the wrong place, and a player from the other team kneed me in the head. The force was enough to break my neck at C7 level.
It was only 2 days before my 18th birthday, yet it ended up being 10 ½ months before I even got to go home. My goal today is to stay healthy. I go to the gym, play sports and have simply got on with my life doing the best I can.
“Odds are it won’t happen to you, but if it does the emotional, social and financial strain it puts on you and your family are lifelong and should not be under-estimated.”
Program: Aqua (QLD)
What do Queenslanders do for a little rest and relaxation – they take their family to the beach. Rob was doing just that when he was momentarily distracted whilst surfing. He fell off his board coming into shore and landed funny in the shallow water, breaking his neck and injuring his spinal cord at C5.
An incredibly active surfer and swimmer, Rob’s life changed in that split second as he became a quadriplegic. After eight months in hospital he slowly came to the realisation that the wheelchair would permanently be in his life. With incredible support from family and friends, and in particular his wife, Rob’s family was drawn closer together by this tragedy.
“Every single task in life is now more difficult. Everything I do becomes a well thought out and difficult challenge. I am more diligent with safety now, particularly with the kids.”