Walk in my Wheels

Access. Awareness. Support.

On the Road Again!

Yes we are officially on the road again after a few months in Echuca working on business matters, renovating a new southern base, refitting a toy hauler (aka caravan), and packing up my old house. It's been a super busy time but still squeezed in some trips down to Melbourne to check in with some of the newbies at Royal Talbot spinal ward.

We got on the road finally last Thursday and we spent our first few days in south eastern South Australia at my mate Seagull's holiday home in Rendelsham. I've got a few old mates down there as I lived there in my 20s and played in the local footy team. Below are some pics from a stormy day out at Beachport pier.

We had a day out at the races for the Mount Gambier Cup and enjoyed some luck coming our way, including meeting a fellow benny there - Trevor Palmer - who is a good bloke and gave us some top tips for Adelaide hotels.

Chatting with Trevor at the races

Chatting with Trevor at the races

Trevor's Fave Adelaide Hotels:

  1. The Stanford Plaza
  2. Mercure Grosvenor Hotel
  3. Riviera

We tried the Stanford, but they didn't have great availability, and were a tad on the pricey side for the nights they did have available. The Mercure ummed and ahhed, had to move some guests out of our room (that had no need of an accessible bathroom), but came through with a good rate and all five nights available.

We've enjoyed our stay here, although we were disappointed to find there's no wheelchair access to the breakfast buffet - heartbroken! We did have the option of room service however which proved helpful. It is a good central place to be (opposite the casino!), with secure basement parking (we will write a thorough review and post soon).

Our room at Mercure Grosvenor Hotel

Our room at Mercure Grosvenor Hotel

In the past I've spent a lot of time doing volunteer work for Paraquad SA so there were a fair few catch-ups over the past few days in Adelaide including contacts at the spinal rehab as well as personal friends. Sadly didn't get to meet any newbies, but hope to be connected with some people that have been through recently and returned to the NT.

We will be hitting the road and heading north to Darwin tomorrow - Thursday 19th May - with our newly renovated toy hauler (rear-opening caravan) and a whole load of our stuff bound for a new life in Darwin as it gets cold down here in the south.

The setup - snow-skiing croc and all - we've had a few looks and piccies taken of us!

The setup - snow-skiing croc and all - we've had a few looks and piccies taken of us!

If you're along the way and want us to drop in give a shout, we're always keen to meet new people and get some local tips. We'll be taking it easy this trip and doing it over a week or so - whereas I normally aim to make it in 3 days.

Wish us safe travels.

Macca out.

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.

Tasmania Travels - getting lucky in Hobart

Our final days in Hobart consisted of enjoying the harbour views, solid time with the bennies and Peg (an upright mate I used to play footy with in Waaia in Victoria) and his missus Chrissie before heading to Launceston to see some old mates from rehab.

Peg, me, and Boof in front of the Grand Chancellor Hobart

Peg, me, and Boof in front of the Grand Chancellor Hobart

We stayed at the Grand Chancellor in Hobart for three nights, lapping up the 5 star luxury, which ended up being paid for in the winnings off the roulette wheel at the Casino - my numbers 33 and 35 came through for me again. For the full report on the hotel room take a look at the review blog post... did I mention it had an AAAAAAAMMMAAYYZZZIIINNNGG view over the harbour... you'd pay 4 figures a night in Sydney for a view like that!

Whilst there we visited the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery which was right across the road - check out the pics below of the pretty groovy sculptural ramp come courtyard seating. We didn't have enough time to have a good look around but what we saw was really interesting.

We also called into the Maritime Museum of Tasmania where we were greeted by ol' mate x 3 - they finished off our look around with some entertaining stories (even if they did have a tendency of repeating themselves!). Fantastic access here and a lift is going in to open up the second level of the building.

On our drive up from Hobart we stopped into say goodbye to Boof and he recommended we take the turnoff to Ross for a stopover... and we were glad he did.... Ross is one lovely old town and I even bumped into my mate Bruce from the cigarette shop in Echuca there! It boasts the third oldest bridge still in use in Australia - a sandstone number constructed by the convicts in 1936.  There's many lovely old buildings down tree-lined streets- including the old barracks for the soldiers - throw in a great bakery, and a fantastic antique shop or two and this is one town I was happy to have discovered. No antique finds for me, but I enjoyed the process of looking! 

Then on up the highway to Launie...

Tasmania Travels - teddy bears & all things nice

Week two of our Tassie adventure was jam-packed. We had a day on the beautiful Bruny Island, played 10 pin bowling with some other bennys, explored more of Hobart and the south-east coast, snuggled up in Snug for a week, met up with old friends holidaying here, saw the latest Star Wars movie, met a bloke battling cancer striving to finish his Huon pine houseboat … yep... some memories we'll take with us to our deathbeds for sure.

It seems we were a little lax at taking photos at Bruny Island, but here's a few of the ferry that we were able to drive the car onto (hot tip: be sure to go to the front of the line to the wheelchair parking spot when you enter the terminal). Oh, and there's a selfie of us at the cheese factory, and one Jess took of a pretty beach where we let Horsey have a swim.

The highlight would have to be the massive lunch at Hotel Bruny - the oysters were MAGNIFICENT! And a close follow-up was the bargains we got from ol' mate at The Green Shed, the islands only second-hand junk shop. Not much more to say... we drove around a bit, stopped at the cheese place, and then the chocolate place, grabbed a coffee and an icecream at the coffee cart place, and then it was time to head back! Lucky for us we got a couple of hours of beautiful weather before it clouded in and started to rain. 

Our only hiccup re. wheelchair access during this time was a trip to the Sandfly Market which was held in the town hall - but the wheelchair accessible door was blocked by a bookcase (we were told to make a complaint to the local council) - luckily with some 4WDing I got to a side door so I did manage to get in. Jess found my resulting purchases (below) amusing.

The below images are from our drive around the D'Entrecasteaux Channel - part of the Huon Trail. The drive south from Snug through to Cygnet and back to Snug via an inland road, was on a gorgeous sunny day, and the landscape was a mix of pretty rural scenes, quaint little towns, and sparkling beaches.

We stopped at Peppermint Bay in Woodbridge, a beautiful spot for cuppa with some interesting architecture and garden sculptures.... Eggs & Bacon Bay was a pretty spot but we were hugely disappointed there was nowhere selling a bacon and egg sanga... Cygnet dished up some healthy grub and an inspiring chat with Rob whose quest is to finish his remarkable floating artwork/home.

Still to come.. blog posts on the remainder of ourTasmanian trip including Hobart, Launceston, our friends Boof, Trent, Jamie, and the 20 year post rehab reunion!