It happened on 28 August 2008 at 8.28am. Everything after that is a bit of a blur, but the moment the accident happened will be stuck in my memory forever.
I was 34 and I was working at a metal recycling factory. We were unloading some steel and I tripped over something on the ground and feel backwards. The steel we were unloading weighted about 100 kilos, and it hit me in the back.
I managed to get up, walked three paces, and collapsed in a heap. I had smashed a disc and a vertebrate in my lower back, and the extent of injury was severe. It was painful to walk, and it was even too painful to get out of bed, so I spent the next month or two flat on my back.
I had two rounds of back surgery. The first one was eight months after my injury, and by that time my nerves had fused to the bones in my spine, so some had to be severed. As a result, today I have areas of numbness and no reflexes at all in my left leg, along with a severe degree of pain in my leg and lower back, every minute of every day.
For several years I took painkillers to manage the pain. I started with Panadeine Forte, but the pain got worse so I was prescribed Gabapentin, and that was how the roller coaster began. In the end, I was on a daily mix of Gabapentin, Rivitrel and Endone, the dosages of which would have to be increased periodically to provide the same level of relief.
However, the medication had very negative side effects. I was constantly depressed and anxious, and had no desire to socialise, shutting out family and friends. I was in this zombie-like state for at least two years, until I began to realise medication was not the answer.
My children were just five and one when the accident happened and I haven't been able to pick them up since. I can't carry more than two kilos. I missed out on two of my children's birthday celebrations because I was stuck in bed. And my depression was putting a lot of strain on my marriage.
I had been looking for a magic potion, but realised my condition was here to stay, and I had to do something about it. I started by making a decision to get off the medication.
In October 2010 I participated in a three-week intensive pain management program at RNSH called ADAPT. Through my hard work and the support of the facilitators, I was weaned off all medication within the first week. At the same time, I was given the understanding and tools to manage my pain in a different way.
Today, I manage my pain through regular meditation, plenty of stretches, and daily walks. For me ADAPT was a God-send; my enthusiasm for life is back.
I will never be able to return to my former life, or the sports that I loved, or work full-time. I still have pain every day. But I can cope with it now. Some days it can take me an hour to get out of bed, but I want to do it.
I'm driven to keep improving myself and I'd like to get back to part-time work, but for now I'm happy to be a stay-at-home dad, and spend time with my children. I also happen to be a great cook, so my wife's pretty happy about that!