Walk in my Wheels

Access. Awareness. Support.

Me Ol' Mate Jamie - 20 years on

I recently had the pleasure of spending some quality time with me ol' mate and his family in his home town of Launceston... we met in the spinal rehab 20 years ago... but here I'll let him tell his own story:

My typical day starts about 6 am rising up out of bed ready for a days work on a construction site as a carpenter, pushing my body and brain to the best of its capabilities like any 22 year old healthy male's body is designed for. On weekdays after work depending on what day of the week or what time of the year it is, I would do what most guys would do which was hang out with mates, and have a drink at the pub after work meet my girlfriend or depending on the time of year during summer cricket training, during winter boxing and running. Weekends play or watch sport, mow my lawns and my father's as he relies on me as he is older now an unable to or take my dog for a walk go fishing.

A simple but happy every day life, not complicated but what I felt was the life for me. Many other people would probably agree - a job, steady income, girlfriend, mans best friend a dog, mates, a roof over my head, and fantastic health - it seems perfect life on track really AND THEN THAT'S WHEN IT HAPPENED.

Let me introduce myself my name is Jamie Kelly from Tasmania, and on the 29th of October 1995 at the age of 22 I became part of a group that I knew nothing about, that is a spinal cord injury (SCI) or in my case a T-6 Complete paraplegic. I woke up not knowing where I was or what was going on and very groggy not being able to move to be told eventually when I could understand things that I was involved in a motor bike accident and have broken my back and would be staying in Melbourne for 6 months or more for rehabilitation at the Royal Talbot along with other injuries such as loss of sight in my right eye, breakayl plexus in my right arm, jaw rewired with missing teeth a loss of over 20 kilos a trachy in so I cannot even communicate back to ask questions all I can do is listen as a doctor just keeps telling me what is in store for me. Face reconstruction when I saw myself in the mirror I could hardly believe the reflection to see that I was actually looking at myself and not someone else.

When I was told my back was broken I knew that meant I could not walk again, which a lot of people knew from common sense or word of mouth about that injury - but was I shocked to find out the other symptoms that go along with a SCI such as no feeling from level of break, spasms, hyperreflexia (also known as autonomic dysreflexia), loss of bowel and bladder control, bladder infections, pressure sores, and if that wasn't enough then the rush of other things started to enter my thoughts like where am I going to live? My place is not wheelchair accessible it has stairs, a bath, tight corridors and there goes sport and what about an income because there goes my job.  Will I be able to drive again? What world am I living in now, can I cope and am I strong enough to do this? Have I really got friends or people just hanging around and relationship wow that's friggin scary to even think about, and can I still have kids? So many questions and things to organise and yet I'm supposed to concentrate on getting healthy and strong again just to sit up so I can start rehab.

Well you too may have these thoughts and the answer is yes you can have these things and after rehabilitation you can adapt and continue on. I'm now 41 and married from a new relationship since my accident with children and yes we can learn to drive with hand controls. You will find your friends will stand by you and help when needed after all that's why you can call them your friend.

You will learn to LIVE in a different way but it's still worth living so don't give up, it's just a new chapter to your life.

Like any injury it will test your spirit and who you are as a person, but at the end of the day you are still you - just not walking - so keep on "fighting" for you and your family.