In May 1999 Jason was seriously injured in a suburban Australian rules football match playing for the Monash Gryphons in the VAFA competition. I was the senior coach at the time and the memory of Jason's injury will never leave me. Neither will the site of him lying on his hospital bed at the Monash Medical Centre that evening. He had cut his spinal cord.
In October 2012 Jason is planning to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in an effort to raise $50,000 for Independence Australia, an organisation that helps people who have received spinal injuries cope with and to come to terms with their injuries. Jason wants to pay them back for their support to him throughout the early years of his recovery. Donations can be made here.
At this point I believe that it is best to leave the full story in Jason's words, which are published for you below. I urge you to support Jason as he is an inspiration, a role model and a wonderful human being.
On the 1st May 1999, my life was turned upside down.
In playing a local game of Australian Rules Football, I suffered a Spinal Cord injury in that my C4 / C5 Vertebrae dislocated, with one going one way and the other going the other way, which cut my spinal cord. While Cat Stevens may say the “First Cut is the Deepest” this, thankfully, was not the case with my injury although the Doctors did not know that at the time.
When I was packed off in the Ambulance on that day, I had no idea that I would forever be classed now as C4/C5 Incomplete Quadriplegic. My focus at the time was I won’t be able to work at the local Video store that night…..and how were they going to be able to cope without me ?
I remember my jumper being cut apart in Emergency……..then nothing for a few days………saw my Dad in Intensive Care with me at the Monash, where my first thought was “Did Celtic beat Rangers in the Scottish Premier League, Dad ?” His negative response did not assist my situation, but I look back now and realise my naiveté with regards to my injury did assist my situation.
I did not remember the Doctor coming and telling me I would never walk again…….
I did not remember crying solid for a day after this news……
I did not realise that I had lost a full week and bit, by the time I finally came to…….
These were things I was told a week, or months later by my Girlfriend at the time, now wife.
I worked at Mercedes Benz Finance at the time with my girlfriend and they were awesome in allowing her time off to be with me on a full time basis for the next month…….my enduring memories from those times in ICU at the Austin Hospital, will be her wiping my mouth because I couldn’t move my arms…….struggling to breathe as I had had a Tracheotomy…..again, finding out later that both my lungs had collapsed and that golden staph had set in, to complicate things further.
On a funnier note, I kept thinking that there was a Chinese Take Away within ICU at the Austin Hospital and wondering how they got that past the State Government……
My move to the general ward for Spinal patients came after two weeks in ICU………I had another 5 weeks in this dedicated ward for Spinal patients at the Austin and was in the ward next door to Robert Rose when the Code Blue was called and he passed away due to complications. Even then, I kept thinking I would be ok and I would get over this sickness…….little did I realise how bad things were and how much it had affected my family. Already, my Grandfather was making plans to build a house for a wheelchair bound Grandson…..that he was moved to tears every time he left my ward……
I started to get some strength and movement in my arms, but everything was ‘gross movement’. Trying to do anything meant using your hands like a lump of wood – if the TV was on a channel, that’s where it stayed……for some time.
It was about 4 weeks in when they decided to get me into a wheelchair for the first time……..it lasted 3 seconds before I fainted. A common tale……..day by day, I was getting winched over to a wheelchair, and day by day I got better at it and was able to sustain longer periods of time in the wheelchair. Then one day early on, a fellow spinal patient bumped into my foot and I went ‘ouch’. A common response to any able bodied person, but he instantly reacted and said he ‘envied me’……I was a bit slow and didn’t realise why, but later I would understand, if you can’t move your legs, it’s usually because you can’t feel them !!!!
This was a good sign, and by the time I left the Austin to go to Royal Talbot, I could slightly move my right leg !!!!
Over the coming months, I got movement back – fine movement too, especially on the right side of my body. They then winched me into a machine where they would stand me up to begin the routine of leg muscles getting used to be on two feet again. Even then, the Physios never guaranteed me anything….no promises were made, and in all our planning, it was to a house that would have to be modified for a wheelchair.
My family are pretty religious and my recovery was labelled a miracle and that I had overcome all these obstacles, but reality is, I was the luckiest person, but also the unluckiest!!! The family wanted to tell the Doctors off for their negative response at first, but MRI’s and X-Rays cannot tell them how much damage is done to one’s spinal cord. Knowing what I know now, if I was a Doctor, I would say the same thing. In such a litigious society as ours, could you imagine what would happen if you told a patient he would be ok, only for him to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life ?
My support networks were awesome…..the Footy Club, my Cricket Club, my Grandfathers networks, my work place, the support was incredible and I kept every single card that I received from that time.
I left the Royal Talbot mid-October 1999, with the assistance of crutches…….I used a wheelchair for longer distances, but crutches were great for 10-20 metres. Over the next 6 months, I started back at work two days a week, rehab the other three……I had to have Driving lessons again and by Christmas I had to get a new car that was slightly modified to assist with my strengths and weaknesses. By March, 2000 life was back to normal, albeit a lot slower. Everything took me a lot longer to complete……and there were a lot of falls.
Good friends, Dean Henderson and Stephen Davey, were strong cyclists and around 2004 they introduced me to Cycling. My balance is not good, and while I try to stretch for 30 mins every day to soothe the damaged nerves in my body, I was at first very fearful. Over time though, I began to enjoy it and after a while I really, really enjoyed it. So much so, I spent money on a decent bike and clip on pedals !!! On Beach road no one realised I was disabled, which I cherished……I was just a slow cyclist, however, they didn’t realise that I pretty much cycled with one leg, but if you looked closely at my calves, you would quickly realise that one leg was more favoured.
In 2008, I took my bike to France to spend a week cycling 600kms of the Tour De France route prior to the professional cyclists – as a guide, my 2.06 hours to do the 58km Time Trial was done in 1.07 by Cadel Evans on the penultimate day to the end of the tour. I attempted the Round the Bay in a day that year, but only completed the 168 kms from Melbourne to Mornington – it was a 30+ day that day, and I was the last one on the road !!!!!
Finally, I took up swimming in 2010…..yet another sport where people did not recognise my disability, however, now I revel in and are not shamed by it. Only taken me 6-7 years !!!!! I remember the days, I would never put my disabled pass on my car, as I did not want people to know that I was disabled…..amazingly, I’ve had every comment from “Do you have Cerebral Palsy ?” to “What did you do to your leg ?”
I’ve learnt now to keep it simple “Just an old footy injury mate….”
In January 2012, I completed my first Lorne pier to pub……in 61 minutes !!!!!! Aim is to improve for next year……
Once again I urge you to support Jason in his efforts to raise $50,000 for Independence Australia.
Donations can be made here.