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Two Years On With Joel

PBF Australia was established to help people move forward after a spinal cord injury. When one of our members is injured it is a devastating time for everyone, but PBF take some solace in the fact that we are able to help.

Joel Sardi, a 23 year old rifleman serving in the Australian Army for 4 years, had recently returned home from a 7 month deployment in Afghanistan.  An aspiring football player with the Seaton Ramblers AFL Club in South Australia, Joel had a very fit and active lifestyle.  Like most young people his complaints were trivial – a dislocated shoulder so he couldn’t play football, a phone battery that wouldn’t last past 10am, sick of cooking himself dinner every night.  Joel never thought he would be dealt a major setback.

Tracey, Joel’s mum, was at home in Victoria when she received the call.   “I will remember the 31st August 2014 forever, when I received the shattering news that Joel had fallen over a staircase while on a football outing with friends.  He had broken his C2 & C5 vertebrae which had unfortunately caused some spinal cord damage, as well as fracturing some thoracic vertebrae and his sternum.”  Joel’s injury meant that he is now a C5 incomplete quadriplegic with no movement in his legs and upper body and can only activate his biceps, forearms and wrists.  “What’s funny is I did all that damage to my body and my glasses were intact – nothing was broken.”

Joel was officially discharged from the Army in January this year.  He currently works for Ironside Recruitment, helping ex defence force personal find compatible jobs that carry their skill set across from the forces to mainstream jobs.  As we approach the 2 year anniversary of Joel’s incident I had the pleasure of chatting with him to see how he is learning to live with a Spinal Cord Injury.

“One of the biggest learning curves for me is being comfortable in public in my wheelchair.  Simply getting used to people staring.  Relying on other people to do everything for you is also incredibly difficult.  Simple things like negotiating footpaths are still a daily challenge.  We live in a hilly area so I have to be careful and plan ahead to make sure I don’t get stuck.”

Joel is still in the early stages of his rehabilitation process – 2 years is not long when talking about SCI.  The extent of Joel’s recovery is unknown. He has his ups and downs but generally takes each day as it comes not looking too far ahead.  Daily he must make sure he remains healthy both physically and mentally.    In his spare time Joel likes to look after Bonsai plants.  This Japanese art form primarily involves contemplation and a pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity.  Helping create a relaxed, centred and recharged environment.

Prior to Joel’s incident the Seaton Ramblers Football Club had taken out Corporate Membership with PBF Australia, covering all of their players, staff and officials.  This meant Joel was able to claim a benefit payment soon after his medical diagnosis.  The PBF payment allowed Joel to purchase special equipment to progress his rehabilitation and created options around independent living.  He lives with his parents in Victoria and PBF’s Membership enabled the Sardi family to modify their family home (including necessary extensive excavation work into 15m of rock).

Joel has faced a lot of challenges but has more ahead of him.  On the 2nd of June Joel and his girlfriend Elisa embarked on a 3 month adventure to The States and Italy.  First stop being San Diego where Joel will begin a 6 week treatment at ‘Project Walk.’  All of us at PBF Australia wish Joel and his family the very best on the journey ahead and look forward to remaining a part of it.

When asked how PBF Australia has helped him move forward Joel replied “They got me home sooner.”

Joel Army Edited
Joel Sardi Army

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