Wednesday, 31 July 2019, 3:01 pm
Learning resilience through rehab
After living overseas and working as a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach, Scott returned to Australia with his girlfriend Angie to resume his studies and make the next move in his career – launch his own fitness business. Scott had a plan, but his path took an incredible detour in December 2016.
Enjoying the summer holidays back in Australia, Scott was at Coogee Beach with Angie and a friend when he dove into the water and hit his forehead on the edge of a sandbar, rendering him unconscious.
“I was just sort of floating in the water for a little while,” said Scott.
Angie who was with Scott, was watching from the shore and rushed into the water when she lost sight of him.
“I grabbed him, and I remember saying to him, ‘Are you joking?’ His eyes were shut, and he wasn’t responsive,” said Angie.
“I didn’t even think about spinal cord damage or anything – I just put him on my chest to keep his mouth out of the water. That’s all I cared about.”
Scott spent several months at Prince of Wales Hospital where he was diagnosed a C6 tetraplegic, meaning partial paralysis of the upper limbs and complete paralysis of the trunk and lower limbs. Scott began his rehabilitation at the Spinal Injury Unit at Royal Rehab in February 2017.
Through months of daily physiotherapy and occupational therapy, Scott slowly began to regain the strength he needed to do the little things that make everyday life possible. From eating and getting dressed, to transferring into and out of a wheelchair, rehab has been a steep learning curve for Scott.
“When you first start, the list of things you can do is really short, but you just have to focus on those things. You have to be patient with yourself and you have to not let the bad times hang around for too long.”
“Being so strong and independent, to the next second you are totally dependent – you’re helpless, you’re vulnerable, you are the opposite of everything you have been for however long. The acceptance of that is hard, but it’s really important for moving forward.”
Not one to slow down or shy away from a challenge, Scott kept a full and busy schedule. Continuing with school and work while he was still in rehab, Scott aimed to spend as much time in the community as he did in the gym to make his transition back home as smooth as possible.
Scott was also introduced to wheelchair rugby through the adaptive sport, recreation and leisure program at Royal Rehab. More than a pathway to sport and recreation, the weekly sessions provided a reinvigorating source of social support and a ‘brotherhood’ for Scott. Scott was able to enjoy sport and to connect and learn from peers.
Rehabilitation has been a roller-coaster ride through a mixture of emotions, successes and challenges for Scott, but there is one constant he has been able to depend on throughout his journey – Angie.
“She has been here every single day,” said Scott. “She quit her job as soon as I had the accident. She put everything on hold.”
Always at Scott’s side, this journey has been as much Angie’s as it has been Scott’s, but she couldn’t imagine having it any other way.
“Everyone tries to give you advice, and it all comes from a good place, but you just have to do what you know is best,” said Angie.
Scott’s accident has no doubt brought major change for the path he envisioned, but his goals remain the same as he returns to work and studies, still with the goal of building his own business.
The experience has also given both Scott and Angie a chance to re-evaluate their appreciation for the little things; for waking up next to each other, cooking together, doing the grocery shopping together. Suddenly, and refreshingly, these seem to outweigh everything else.
“Being here and just being alive basically is just so much better than the alternative,” said Scott.
Watch Scott’s story below.