Before my accident, about six years ago, I worked at a prestige car dealership in Brisbane. This work was physically demanding as well as being quite social. We all had to get on well as it could be quite a pressured environment and humour often kept us going.
I really enjoyed the camaraderie of work. I guess I was a typical bloke, enjoying fishing, rugby league and reading. I spent a lot of time being outdoors and active.
I was travelling home from the Gold Coast one weekend with my family when a four-wheel drive towing a caravan overtook us, swiping our car and sending it spinning and flipping - careening into the centre gully of the freeway. The four-wheel vehicle driver kept going, making it a hit-and-run which was later to cause problems with my insurance claim.
My two young daughters, thankfully, only sustained minor injuries. But my wife and I endured six years of pain, distress and disability. My wife has an ongoing neck problem that still gives her pain. I was the most seriously injured, having crush spinal fractures at T4, T6 and T12. I now live my life as a paraplegic.
After the accident, we were relying on the public health system for treatment. Early on, the doctors said there was the "possibility of walking but you may not be able to (walk)" so I held out hope for a couple of years that my legs would start functioning again.
However, it was easier for me to accept loss of the use of my legs than the ongoing extreme pain I have to endure and probably added to my feelings of depression and anxiety.
There was also a feeling that my brain "wasn't right". However, my neurologist wasn't able to diagnose anything at the time. Later on, I found out that I had sustained brain damage which makes it difficult for me to learn new things, remember recent things and has affected my speech.
Some six years later I am still on very strong painkillers. I take these unless I'm driving somewhere in my modified car. At times, I have called the ambulance to get help with the pain and they come and give me an injection but I can't call them very often because it needs to be an "emergency" when I call. Usually, I just take extra painkillers myself when I get a bad attack and ignoring it won't work.
My GP referred me to the Royal Brisbane and Women's' Hospital pain management clinic. In 2009 when I gave them a ring they said the waiting list for me to get into the pain clinic was more than 18 months long. They already had people who had been waiting more than 18 months who weren't considered as serious as me.
They also said they had a great back-log of patients they didn't have enough government funding for. It seemed they didn't want another name to add. The RBH suggested I go to a private pain clinic but I can't afford it without private health insurance.
No doubt I'd learn a lot about helping to manage my pain but I was so depressed at having to wait so long for the pain clinic I didn't add my name to the list.
Last year I went back to the gym and joined Sporting Wheelies. The gym helps my fitness as does the Sporting Wheelies. The guys at the 'Wheelies' all have their own problems but everyone helps each other. We get tips and learn from each other.