My playing days came to an end on 16th June 1979 – playing for my school, Okato College on our home ground in coastal Taranaki. My accident happened as I was tackling an opposition player and went in the wrong way. SCI were unheard of in my life before then, and little did I know the impact that fateful day would have on my life. As many other VIP’s have mentioned, looking back I’m not sure I’d change a thing. I do and have led a charmed life. The medical diagnosis for me was a double dislocation of C 4,5 & 6, complete at C5. Scull tongs were tried but didn’t keep all the vertebrae in place, so I had a bone graft and surgery on my spine to wire everything together. 6 days in Taranaki base, then my very own chartered (Cessna) flight to get me to the Otara Spinal Unit. To me as a young 15 year old school boy from rural Taranaki, South Auckland was an amazing place to spend the next 2 years on and off. Talk about culture shock!, but I loved it and soaked up all I could. Meeting new and interesting people was and still is one of my favorite things. The other residents of OSU’s ‘C’ Block were a wondrous group of people. You had men and woman from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds. Artists, sportsmen, members of hell’s Angels, Highway 61 and other gangs, most of whom had the misfortune to be injured in the pre ACC days.
My first trip back home was 6 months after my accident. I headed back to OSU after my Xmas holiday to continue my rehabilitation and education. Obviously I was still a student and had my future to consider. Computers seemed to be a logical choice of career for me as I was pretty good at math’s, and farming didn’t seem such a practical choice, even though I was and still am, a farmer at heart. As a student my income from ACC was basically the same as a sickness beneficiary. So for me the future I wanted for myself required that a get a job, and an income.
Back then in the OSU’s early days, we had a teacher on site and a classroom. Here I learned, sat and passed School C, UE, and went on to study computer programming at ATI. After 2 years of this I headed back to Taranaki armed with my pieces of paper determined to get a house, a job, and a future. This was 1981 and computers were just coming in, our local Polytechnic didn’t even have computer courses at this stage. After a one year contract at Dow Elanco in New Plymouth writing their Payroll System, I secured a fulltime job with a small software development company, also in New Plymouth. I stayed at this job for over 15 years and found it hugely rewarding. Both in financial and personal development terms.
Operating a computer with a mouthstick fulltime, and having 3 vertebrae in my neck fused together, was always going to have a not lengthy lifetime. Working fulltime as a C5 Quad really does take its toll, my health was suffering and I was in constant pain. This was from an OOS type injury to my neck and shoulder, caused from my all day, every day mouthstick computer use. So after getting my software and our clients through the difficult period of the Y2K issues I made the decision to end my fulltime employment.
At this stage of my life I decided it was time to follow my dreams. One of these was to build a house on my parent’s Dairy farm in Coastal Taranaki. This is where I live today and it’s amazing, as I sit here writing my Bio, I look out onto a wild, wintery ocean. I call myself the farm manager, but it’s a little overblown as we’ve had our current farm managers (50/50 sharemilkers) for 20 years and they pretty much run the show. I do the farm accounts and help out any other way I can. As I’ve grown older I’ve gotten more and more involved in the governance of groups that dedicate themselves to improving the lot of the disabled.
In the early eighties I was approached by a friend from school who worked for CCS, to see if I’d be interested in joining the Local CCS Committee. In those days we pretty much ran our local branch. Being a sucker for a pretty face I agreed. To this day I’m still involved and currently I’m the chairman of the Local Advisory Committee of North Taranaki CCS Disability Action.
Also a member of Taranaki Parafed Committee.
And a member of New Plymouth District Council’s Disability Issues Working Party.
Another group I work with is ACC’s NSIS Advisory Group. This involves 4 or 5 meetings in Wellington each year. This is a very challenging role where we report back to ACC on how their policies are helping, or hindering our lives. We gather feedback from other users of ACC’s National Serious Injury Service and feed this back to ACC’s head office in Wellington. They also give us information on upcoming changes and ask our opinions on other ideas they may be working on.
These groups keep me very busy, as I also run my own ‘Care Company’ which has and does serve me very well in maintaining my independence and freedom. The way this works is I invoice ACC for my career’s hours and they pay this to my care company. So I take care of my own advertising for staff, interviews, and contracts, run the payroll and generally try and be a good employer. Unlike today when many quads use agencies to provide the care they need. When I was injured there were no agencies. So I just started off doing things my way, and now continue it right to this day. This is an option for all of us that need carers and I feel passionately that more of us could be doing this. This is an area that ACC’ s NSIS Advisory group is currently looking at and if anyone wants information on this please feel free to contact me.
In closing I’d like to thank the Rugby Foundation for all the help they have provided over the years. The free tickets have been a definite major plus for me. I’m not so active now, but for quite a few years there I went to every All Black game in the North Island. Also the Wellington 7’s, an amazing weekend! The Foundation has also helped me to make the landscaping around my house a little more wheelchair friendly by providing concrete paths. Keep up the great work Guys, and Gals.