Learning hand controls

Graeme was injured on 26 March 2014 when he was shot in his front yard in Merrylands. The bullet entered his spine and caused him to become a paraplegic.

After spending time at the Intensive Care Unit at Westmead Hospital, he was transferred over to the Royal North Shore Hospital Spinal Ward for nine weeks. Thereafter, Graeme commenced his rehabilitation with Royal Rehab in the Spinal Injury Unit.

After 30 years driving road trains, trailers and prime movers around Australia, Graeme thought that he would be unable to continue that line of work. With the help of Royal Rehab Driver Assessment and Training, he spoke to Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) and applied for a grant to get the ball rolling for the assessment. Graeme was assessed by Royal Rehab’s occupational therapists and driving instructors to assess his coordination, balance and eyesight.

“To go from a road-train licence to a class C vehicle was daunting but they made the transition so much simpler,” said Graeme.

“I did that assessment and they took me out for a drive towards Putney and down to Kissing Point Wharf down by Parramatta River. I was driving for five minutes and thought… this is different.

“I had to learn to use hand controls: push down for a brake and pull up for acceleration.”

Graeme quickly picked up the skills of driving again, operating the vehicle with hand controls. After learning to drive in a modified vehicle with hand controls, Graeme took his test with the Roads and Maritime Service and was successful in obtaining his licence.

“The whole idea of getting back to driving is to get back a degree of normality and independence,” said Graeme.

“Once you are back on the road you still can contribute to society in small ways by driving or doing volunteer work. Driving gives you independence and a degree of normality.”

Graeme purchased a 2012 sports station wagon and had that modified by Problem Management Engineering at Hornsby. The push-pull hand controls were funded by SCIA. Graeme also go a Wymo installed (a lift for the manual wheelchair) put on his car roof. When he transfers into the driver’s seat from the manual chair, there is a little crane that comes down to hook onto the wheelchair and position it on the roof… making it easy for Graeme to transition in and out of his vehicle.

Listen to Graeme the day he passed his driving test!