Disability

Hi, Grant here. I was born in 1953 so I’ve been around a while. You can find a bit more about me in my biography post if you like.

I use a power wheelchair to get around. I broke my neck due to a trampoline accident in 1979, at the age of 25, which was quite annoying at the time.
I damaged three vertebra is in my spine so I am technically a C5-C7 Quad. Quadriplegia or tetraplegia as it is called in the United States means all four limbs are affected.
It does not necessarily mean that you cannot move your arms. After spending nearly 2 years in “rehabilitation” I have lived independently in the community since.
Initially I mainly used a manual wheelchair, but progressed to a power chair as I got older. I drove a car, studied, worked, and travelled extensively and still do.

Growing up in the country, and then at boarding school in Melbourne, I was very fit and subsequently successful at sport, including athletics, swimming, rowing and so on. I do seem to be a bit accident-prone which is probably due to Fortune and a reckless nature. During my hippy days I used to stand on my head a bit which may have weakened my neck according to the surgeon so I recommend against it. I also had a head injury from a motorbike when I was about ten so that may not have helped.

I was lucky to have been born into a comfortable family which provided me with a good education and understanding and support after my injury.
My parents, siblings, relatives and friends as well as professionals and kind strangers all provide ongoing support.
I was also lucky to be born in Australia, which despite its faults has a fantastic education, health and Social Security system.
Having travelled extensively I can say that although we still have much to do, and many Australians struggle, our society is still one of the most supportive, kind and intelligent I’ve ever come across.

In the 80s I went back to university and completed a computer science degree, which turned out to be a platform for a good career for a wheelie.
Mainly, I worked for the government and again I received wonderful support.

I was also fortunate to meet a brilliant disability activist called Rob McNamara and I was able to help him introduce personal care to Australia.
I have had this service for the last thirty years and a succession of incredible people have helped me on path. Many are still close and beloved friends and I owe a great debt to all.

Currently (2016) I receive funding from the government which I self-manage to employ carers and enhance my independence.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is on the horizon; who knows what that will hold. I understand it still includes the hard-won concept of self-management so I hope that things will not get worse and that it will make life easier for many people who have missed out on support in the past.

I have had a number of relationships both before and after my injury, some fleeting and some more permanent, including marriage for ten years. I have been in a wonderful relationship for the past ten years with a lovely, supportive, intelligent partner. Her friends and relatives, especially her brilliant children bring great joy. I also have a daughter who I love dearly who gives my life even more meaning than I could possibly deserve.

In my teens and early 20s I became very interested in literature and various philosophies, including existentialism and humanism.
Although a lifelong atheist (no I’m not agnostic, I’m actually quite convinced) I was strongly drawn to Buddhism, especially the Japanese Zen kind. I meditated a lot (and took quite a few drugs, truth be known) and these experiences have helped me on my journey. One of my interpretations is that reality as we experience it is constructed in the mind. I do not deny the strong possibility of an external reality (I am a scientist after all) but once we internalise it things change. For me, accepting that beliefs and even feelings are malleable meant that pain, suffering and misfortune could also be accepted. Plus I never railed against my fate, but embraced it as a fascinating journey. A recent lengthy stint in the soulless Austin hospital (it’s not the staff, it’s because I can’t see the sky or a single plant) tested me a bit, but walking down the street the other day through a velvet Melbourne evening my love affair with life and being alive felt almost painful in its intensity, as true love always does.

As I grow older, after so many years living with a “serious” disability, things are getting progressively more difficult health-wise.
I have always had problems pop-up over my many years including broken legs, skin issues and so on. They are just becoming more frequent. Self-management, vigilance and support all help, as well as patience, optimism and a deep and my abiding love of life.

 

If anyone feels they want to discuss any of these issues or if I can help in any way with advice or suggestions feel free to contact me.

 

Cheers, Grant

Below are some photos of me and my wheelchair as we travel along.

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