Ben is a NIISQ participant who sustained a T4 spinal cord injury in a road bike accident in January 2018. Ben sustained additional injuries from the accident including moderate brain trauma, fractured scapula and fractured and broken ribs.
“The result of the accident left me paralysed from the chest down with incredible neuropathic pain, bladder complications, severe abdominal and lower limb spasms and the inability to retain short term information,” said Ben.
Prior to his accident, Ben led an active lifestyle centred around fitness and gym.
“I would randomly just go for 10km runs, deliberately searching for obstacles to climb, jump and flip over, stopping at parks to do callisthenics and basically anything to push myself to the very edge of peak performance. To say I lived an active lifestyle is an understatement,” said Ben.
Ben had successfully applied to the television show, Australian Ninja Warrior and a few weeks before the show was set to start, he came off the bike and had to withdraw from the competition.
In the months that followed, Ben was in hospital recovering and retraining how to do basic tasks such as feeding, showering and dressing himself. He also partook in vigorous rehabilitation to become more balanced, able-bodied and stronger.
“The rehab alongside help from the nursing staff, specialist doctors, family and friends provided the base towards the independence I have today,” said Ben.
Whilst in hospital, Ben spent a lot of time in between the parallel bars bearing weight through his hips and lower limbs to help with circulation, lessen spasm and free up his range of motion. NIISQ helped Ben’s progression by purchasing parallel bars that Ben could use at home.
Home modifications were funded by NIISQ to increase Ben’s access. Ben’s stairs were modified with a chairlift so he can access the community from the lower level of his unit and a ramp was installed to access his back verandah where he overlooks the trees and relaxes. NIISQ also paid for a manual wheelchair to use inside the unit, another manual wheelchair for when Ben is out in the community, a Baytec power assist device to help Ben to move around and navigate the steep hills in his neighbourhood, all the products for his cares, catheterisation, a sheepskin on his bed to prevent pressure sores occurring during spasms and injury related medications.
“More importantly, NIISQ has given me someone who I can reach out to when problems arise or something needs to be re-assessed over my lifetime,” said Ben.
Ben accepts that life is different for him since his accident.
Ben said, “my phone has become my personal assistant. It reminds me to take my meds, to drink fluid, eat food and to catheterise. I have a pretty set routine that I try to follow vigilantly as that structure can define the difference between an easy day and a difficult one. Something as simple as not doing your bathroom cares or forgetting to take your medications can cause major problems very quickly”.
Although his life has changed, Ben maintains a positive attitude to work towards his goals.
“I look back to the beginning of my journey and smile because I have this feeling of accomplishment and a knowing that even though I will be faced with challenges I once found simple, I will not allow it to lessen my quality of life. Every day is different, every day I am different. I have a disability but it does not define me.”
Very recently, Ben had carpal tunnel surgery on his left hand, which made his injury related tasks very difficult to complete. NIISQ, alongside the Transitional Rehabilitation Program at Princess Alexandra Hospital, assisted Ben by providing carers to shower and dress him and a hoist to get Ben in and out of bed safely.
“Now with both legs and one arm out of commission my mobility is massively restricted limiting my fitness. NIISQ was able to hire me a MOTOmed to keep me active, occupied and the blood circulating more efficiently. My spasms have reduced significantly.
“Without NIISQ and the help from my family and friends I truly believe I would not have achieved so much in so little time,” said Ben.
Once Ben’s hand has healed, he will be returning to his local gym for a more intensive rehabilitation program, with the assistance of his private physiotherapist funded by NIISQ.
“Ultimately my goal is to walk again, but whilst I retrain and relearn how to, I will follow my passion for the gym and focus on the pursuit for the Paralympic Games as a power lifter”, said Ben.
Ben wishes to share this important message.
“Coming from being a super athlete who ran everywhere, climbed and jumped any obstacle and spent most days punishing my body for the sake of perfection, my experience now being in a chair has taught me many great things; mental fortitude, perseverance, gratitude and most importantly patience. To anyone else who is in my position my advice would be to stick with what you love, even if at first glance it seems impossible. You can do whatever it is you want to do if you just look past the physical and never place limitations upon yourself or listen to those who say it can’t be done. I still have so much more to learn and even more to achieve but I am excited by the notion of what the future holds.”