Speaker 0 00:00:00 AAC connect. It's a new way to stay in touch with your local area coordinator, carers Queensland, with everything you need right here on your device. It's a handy app to keep track of your C appointments, browse workshops, and events, check out information and support and get the latest news stories and podcasts it's available on Android and iOS. So whatever device you have, you can stay in touch, head to our website to sign up at carers QLD com AU. And look for connect Joyce and control a podcast, celebrating people with disability brought to you by carers Queensland, N D I S local area coordination partner in the community. Mark Berridge is an author speaker, family, man, and ready to face up to a hard physical challenge. He had a successful corporate career that saw him working with international players like Rio Tinto, but that all changed in 2019. When mark acquired disability as the result of a cycling accident,
Speaker 2 00:01:07 It was actually a really beautiful morning. It was March, it wasn't particularly humid. So I just remember coming down the hill in fi tree pocket. Uh, it was about halfway through a seven kilometer ride. I was typically riding 200, 2 50 Ks per week. You know, just that little bit of Christmas in there actually, which is surprising for beautiful sunny morning. And just thinking, how good is this? And coming around a corner and suddenly the front wheel lost traction through the corner, um, it sort of hit a little indentation in the road. And first thing that went through in my mind was regain control of the bike and understand your options. Uh, so very quickly going to that process. And then what of my options I decided to crash straight ahead, cause there was a park straight ahead. Uh, but unfortunately I Whil, I knew I was going over the handlebar and once I made that decision, I didn't appreciate that there was a storm water drain in the, in the grassy park.
Speaker 2 00:01:56 And, uh, I flew quite high just the way that my trajectory went then came down, uh, roughly 1.6, 1.7 meters below ground level into the bottom of this stormwater drain. And my helmet, my left shoulder hit the ground first. I sort of pole driving into the ground and I fell onto my side at the bottom of this, this ditch, a helmet probably hit the edge of the blue stone rock wall, the, a loose bit of blue. So rock, there was a Bo at the bottom of the ditch and that crowded a very nasty blow to my helmet, but fortunate the helmet did a great job and uh, just immense pain. Um, so, um, you know, I guess next thing you know, I sort of didn't ever lose consciousness. I sort of know that the guys that were cycling closest to me are, uh, coming nearby eye and calling the ambulance. I could hear that going on. And, um, and all I can remember was just this intense searing pain in my back. And just, how do I try and slow things down and control my breathing and not panic in this situation? Cuz I was obviously very, um, yeah, I was in a lot of shock I guess, guess because of the, of the blow and the, and the level of the pain.
Speaker 3 00:03:01 Absolutely. And then the ambulance took you to hospital. What happened then?
Speaker 2 00:03:06 Uh, it took a while for the ambulance to come. Paramedics did an amazing job, took him a while to brainstorm how to get me out of the bottom of the ditch. Cause it was couldn't cave and they couldn't really get the stretch under anything, et cetera. So all that took a bit of problem solving and then they had to walk away from the ambulance to get me safely out of the ditch. So all of that process took a while and then, um, the boys have called my wife and let 'em know that I'm on the way to the hospital and perhaps she should meet me there. They called the ambulances at seven eight in the morning. Uh, I think I probably got to the hospital about an hour later and then started getting processed through emergency met Lucy there and roughly 10:00 AM as when I got the results of all the, the scans, et cetera, that I'd been having to that point.
Speaker 2 00:03:51 Um, and that was, yeah, it was a complete shock. I just really wasn't ready for the news that was delivered, which was that I, uh, well had five fractured bones, but uh, two fractured vertebra, most materially. And that one of those, uh, vertebrae was 40% of its original height. A very large piece of it had gone into my spinal cord and overall all those, uh, injuries were causing, uh, significant more than 50% compression on my spinal cord. And cause I had no idea what they meant. So it just sounded terrible. Um, obviously I was not prepared for the word spinal cord injury. I just didn't, even though the pain was intense, I don't think I ever expected that, but this, the comment of the 50% compression or more than 50% compression spinal cord was the one that most impacted me cuz I just didn't understand what they meant, you know, sort of suddenly thinking well, is that like the power to my legs?
Speaker 2 00:04:44 You know, if I'm only got features percent the functionality to my legs or into the power, how am I gonna stand up? How am I gonna get around? And certainly they weren't picturing a very RO they weren't painting a very rosy picture of my future mobility, even if the operation was successful. Um, it was, you know, likely to be very, very hard to, to regain mobility. There'll be listeners out there that have, you know, been there for those conversations and you know, it is very, you know, very difficult to hear. I, I, I can't even recall being able to lift my head off the plan to be able to see who was speaking, you know, when I heard the news and yeah, it was a very tough moment and probably spent, I think, you know, for at least four hours just completely lost. I think after that, um, Lucy's had to, to drive home to let the children know that, that the dad's had an accident at that stage. They'd been sleeping and didn't know much more other than to hang out washing and feed dogs. So she's imagine that was a very, very tough, uh, drive home and framing it in mind, how you gotta have that discussion with the children. So she's not home to do that. And, and I'm just sitting there lying there, sorry, not sitting anywhere lying. Um, I mobile, um, I guess following for quite a while in terms of, do I have the strength to take this challenge on,
Speaker 3 00:06:03 As you're saying, your wife and, and your children, they've, they've had those feelings now what's gonna happen with their lives. What's gonna happen with your lives? What was your exact feelings towards now acquiring a disability? How were you physically and, and mentally after the accident?
Speaker 2 00:06:21 Oh, I think in those first few hours in particular, it's very hard not to, I guess, you know, go to the worst case scenarios and catastrophize what's happened so very much I was thinking like I'm gonna be a burden to my family for the rest of the time that I'm alive. And I didn't really, you know, want that outcome. And I guess living a very active lifestyle, three active children will, you know, all played a lot of sport. I, I guess always associated myself as, as being sporty and in my own, um, sports activities and, um, very much involved in theirs and all of a sudden you're thinking none of that's, you know, gonna be the same, you know, you're not, may not even walk my daughter down the island the same way. And so having all, all those thoughts at that point in time and, uh, you're in terminal and, and I think I just had to sort of spend a few hours sort of just dealing with that and then trying to find my way to find inspiration of who's what other people do I know and what other visions gonna have of people that have been in tougher situations and how might they have taken on their situations to tackle it rather than get overwhelmed by it.
Speaker 2 00:07:38 And I, I dunno exactly what they would've done to tackle those situations, but if I can imagine what they might have done and if I could start to try and replicate what I imagine they might have done, then, uh, then on a chance to, I guess, to make some progress and ultimately, uh, any progress would be better than where I was. So,
Speaker 3 00:07:58 Wow. It's amazing. Just those few hours, you were already thinking so far into the future, but explain to me then after those first few hours you've had surgery now, what was involved in your re rehabilitation and what was it like learning to walk again
Speaker 2 00:08:13 Was the point where I really had to trust the specialist that this was the, the right steps. I think I was pretty comfortable, but once they'd said you're gonna have these 2 23 centimeter rods. Um, you gonna put up your back and screw to your good vertebrae with, you know, screws, the size of your little finger. I, I guess I was pretty much okay with that. That's my pathway forward. That's my pathway forward. So the most of once I sort of got through that initial while most of that first day was just, well, that's the first step I've just gotta get through the operation. And of course, then I wake up post the operation and I can't even slide myself a centimeter up the bed. I couldn't move anything. I really was so incapacitated I guess, in part by the operation. But also, you know, now that I'm, I got some license to be able to move cuz of the first day, obviously they just immobilize me for safety.
Speaker 2 00:09:02 I realized I can't move at all. No wonder I wasn't trying to get up when I was at the bottom of the ditch because I just literally can't move. So all of a sudden you're back in that ditch of, you know, there is no hope, how can I face this? And you've gotta rebuild all that sense of hope and this, I guess those longer term goals you were talking about of where I'd like to get to, how to rebuild and again, on the next day. And then I guess that would be the first thing I did from a, you know, rehabilitation perspective and learn to work perspective was just focus on what can I do today? I can't move myself in bed. It's just exhausting. Well, I can wiggle my toe or attempt to wiggle all my toes. Cause at that stage I had virtually no movement on my feet and particularly my big toe on my left was the worst of all.
Speaker 2 00:09:42 It, it was consistently giving no movement, but how do I just strain everything in my whole body and try and reconnect to the feet and try and get something to move. And they telling me to breathe deep. So I don't get any complications from the operation and don't damage my lungs. Like that hurts like nothing else, but I can do that. So at the very start, it was just focus on what I can do. And obviously it was listening to the physios as they told me what I can do and what I should do and, and just doing it as often as I could, as thoroughly as I could at that stage, that was the only hope I had was just following those little small steps and just doing them and doing them and doing them and doing them. So, uh, that's what I did.
Speaker 2 00:10:23 So now we're talking, you know, 38 hours post operation, the physio comes in and said, we're gonna get your stand up and I'm going, hang on. I've worked out how little I can move in bed. I really don't think this is gonna work. You must be kidding. Right? There's no way Melin are gonna take me. And I had a rollator, which is sort of this wheeled walking frame and two physios, either side of me, I think the nurse may have been, um, asked to be on standby too. And they, uh, I guess, you know, taught me to sit up on the side of the bed and help me do that. And that was obviously extraordinarily painful and difficult. And then they got me hold me each side and, and got me to get up and about on the, on the rollator. And my legs are just shaking uncontrollably.
Speaker 2 00:11:07 They can't really take weight and they don't really know what's going on. And, uh, we stood for a while and sort of just got the feel for that. And I've probably got, you know, 50 cent more on my weight going through my, going through the rollator through arms, cuz my legs just can't bear the load, which wasn't ideal because I had a fractured left schedule and a fractured left wrist. So I wasn't really supposed to be putting weight particularly through the left hand and I just couldn't put it through the legs. And then they said, oh, let's just try and take a couple of steps. And, and they had me walk two meters to the, the door leaning into that, uh, the doorway of my room leaning into that roller room back. And, and I think that was probably one of those worst moments because you suddenly realize I've got no idea where my feet are below me and how to operate them. So that was, yeah, that was extraordinarily difficult. Um, roughly a week after that, um, was my first attempt at walking in the parallel bars, which was equally traumatic, I guess, and, um, difficult. And I felt so defeated, but I just had to use their advice that this was gonna get the way forward. And how do I just, how do I just do what you're asking her to do as difficult as it might be? Because my only hope of progression is to give my heart and soul to what you're telling me to do.
Speaker 3 00:12:22 And this accident and your journey, this led to you writing your book, uh, fraction stronger. Tell me about that.
Speaker 2 00:12:30 Probably took a, took a long time to sort of come to that, that point. So mid 2020, so we're talking 15 months after the accident, I sort of roped something publicly for the first time, um, about my accident and dealing with disruption, everyone was dealing with COVID at that stage. So everyone had their own disruption and it seemed to resonate. And so a few people were saying, oh, you should write and speak some more about, you know, how you tackled your adversity and, and share it for helping other people and probably took me six months or so to get my head around it and commit. And then I decided, yeah, you know, so many people came to hospital and, or did things that, that help me, what can I do to potentially help other people deal with? What's a very tough situation. So that led to the start of the writing journey did a few months with a book coach to try and get the right structure that led to a publisher, having some interest in my book.
Speaker 2 00:13:26 And then another few months working with them to, to get the book up to the standard that they saw, it needed to be to, to engage readers all the way through it and to really be vulnerable all the way through the book. I think in my first drafts, I'd sort of been uncomfortable about it being too much about me and, and opening up too much. There were sort of parts of the book where I'd opened up a lot, but not all the way through the book and with their encouragement and their support. I, I guess I delved into more of those feelings, you know, all the way through the book, um, to really create a, a journey hopefully where people for better or worse that we sometimes where it doesn't feel accurate, but are really with me through that journey. Um, and, and there's some other stories in the book people have inspired me and, and hopefully that will inspire readers so that they can sort of be there and sort of reflect on their own, their own strengths and what they can do if they're ever in a safe situation or if they're supporting someone that's in that situation or just if they wanna tackle some difficult change that they haven't been able to do.
Speaker 2 00:14:25 And, and there's a bit of a framework there that might help them. So that became the sort of the background of the book. And yeah, I guess overall that was probably about a year's process. Uh, I'd say six months worth of pretty much full time work for me, which is a couple of days a week. I'm really focused on, on pumping out the book within that, that year and a fraction stronger, uh, hit bookstores in late February this year. And it's just been, I guess, humbling in terms of some of the emails and, and feedback I've received from people that have been in a very difficult situation and, and how the books helped them. And, you know, that's a very nice thing to have happened out of what was a very difficult situation.
Speaker 0 00:15:09 It's if you are looking for maximum flexibility and choice, self-managing your N D I S plan might be the right option for you carers Queensland's free introduction to self-management workshop covers the benefits of self-managing your plan, how it works, and the practical side of arranging support and managing payments. This workshop is offered in person and online. Find out more check for events coming up near you and book your spot [email protected]
Speaker 2 00:15:40 I'm very fortunate. I sort of basically life is relatively normal. I can walk about 50% of the pace that I used to walk and walking up up here or with any, um, load is difficult. My balance, I've gotta be very careful. I'm very reliant on my site, cuz my progress percept not being perfect. Um, so walking the dark or something like that, you, a slippery surface is you scary, uh, uncomfortable, difficult, uh, and getting up and down off the ground is less call inconvenient. Um, but it's probably worse than that. Yeah. Mobility's, you know, well short of perfect, but at the same time, it's at a level where, you know, life's relatively normal for most, most tasks. It all be it with some focus and you know, extra energy. So, um, I, I guess it's hard to say, you know, how much did the way I tackle my predicament lead to that being a better outcome. I think there's no doubt some exactly how much that sum is. This is hard to say, but yeah, very proud of, I guess, where I've got to, even though at times it still has its challenges in terms of the physical mobility.
Speaker 3 00:16:49 Absolutely. But it sounds like you should be very proud cuz I understand you took part in Tasmania's three capes track.
Speaker 2 00:16:57 If you've been in, you know, situation where you physical or some other abilities you've been taken away and, and you just doing your best to apply yourself to the rehab for that, it can be pretty soulless painless at times. You don't really feel like it's hard to assess how much progress you're making. And so obviously the ways I'll deal with that is, you know, having small incremental goals, but also having aspirational goals. And for me, um, doing this, you know, very significant seating walk in Tasmania called the three capes walk where you're looking down over Tasman island and, and walking really through national park was became mine. So that's 54 kilometers over four days. The last two days in particular were extremely tough for me. I was, well, I wouldn't have made it, but for my physio's help in preparing me, but also my physio, uh, saying that she wouldn't sign off me going unless I went, saw a dietician and, and got special, you know, energy gels and other things to help me get through it because it was effectively an ultra marathon for me, you know, stretch target that I really wanted to do to get out there and, and walk to the bottom of Southeast corner of Tasmania and look down over Tasman island and off the, you know, the highest S of the south and hemisphere.
Speaker 2 00:18:11 And it's just truly beautiful where I did it with the Tasmanian walking companies. So I didn't have to carry a full pack. I was just carrying my clothes and, you know, water. So about nine kilo, nine kilograms every day. But I couldn't, you know, that, even that for me to a huge amount, I couldn't have carried that. But for using walking poles, I had to use walking poles the whole way through. So I think I was probably, you know, so on my shoulder blades for, you know, two weeks afterwards from how hard my shoulders and, and arms had worked effectively sharing that load of the pack and the dragging myself up and down Hills using those poles for. Um, but yeah, it was an aspirational target that I reached and, you know, probably nothing better than standing down and looking over a view that you've really set yourself for 80 months of that's something I'd like to achieve. So yeah, very special thing.
Speaker 3 00:19:01 And so now with your acquired disability, you're an N D I S participant, when did you access this scheme and, and how did you find out about it
Speaker 2 00:19:10 Really important counsel? I to write about in the book is, you know, in general, I, I tried hard not to be proud and in, in my recovery and reach out and seek help, but that was one moment where, but for the pressing of social workers in the hospital, I probably might have, you know, just dismissed something that I really shouldn't have. And I'm so grateful that they pushed on and said, no, mark, this is really important. We're gonna apply to this. And they kicked up that process for me while I was in hospital. Then once I started coming outta my day hospital treatment, so July, I reached out to, you know, follow up with the NDAs and have my first meeting with my local carers Queensland, uh, person, uh, as a result of that, I found the physio that I continued to work with today.
Speaker 2 00:19:55 I probably wouldn't have found that physio, but for the N D I S process, and, you know, she's a specialist in the area, whereas I may not have found the right specialist. I just gone to a general, you know, physio, which still might have been good, but wouldn't have been as good as what, what I've, you know, been able to access. And yeah, so, you know, both in terms of the, I guess the plan itself, but also the way that figured outcomes for me, by who I, you know, selected for treatment. Um, the NDS has just been a cornerstone of my recovery. I, I would not be the same person on so many levels. Probably wouldn't have written a book, probably wouldn't be there as mobile as I am, but for the N BS. So, you know, fundamentally, I, I can't see how I ever would've recovered physically to the same level, but for that NGS support, particularly, you know, cuz I've used it so focused around physio and those physical gains, I been having a much more difficult time, but forbs. So it's just life changing in terms of the way it's helped me tackle my recovery and achieve improvements.
Speaker 0 00:21:01 You can find out more about Mark's work and his book, a fraction stronger on his [email protected]
That's M a R K B E R I D G or one word.com.au. Thanks for joining us a choice and control a carers Queensland podcast. For more information about the national disability insurance or carers Queensland, contact us [email protected]
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