Getting back to the farm

It was a day like any other on the cattle farm for Stephen Wood. He set out early on his tractor to spread fertilizer across his property in Macksville, a small town in northern New South Wales. Things quickly took a dramatic turn however when Stephen’s tractor hit some branches and he was thrown off.

“I couldn’t feel anything and new I had broken my neck,” Stephen recalls.

Thanks to the quick actions of his neighbour, Stephen was transferred to Royal North Shore Hospital for acute care. Here he was diagnosed with a C4 ASIA C spinal cord injury meaning he has partial motor and sensory paralysis of his upper limbs, trunk and lower limbs. After medical stabilisation Stephen was admitted to Royal Rehab’s Spinal Injury Unit for ongoing rehabilitation.

The multidisciplinary team of health professionals developed a goal-based rehab program designed to help Stephen increase his independence and adapt to his changed abilities.

“I wanted to walk, to increase my independence in feeding, and get back to the farm and mechanical workshop which I have run with my wife for over thirty years.”

Daily Occupational therapy progressed from upper limb strengthening exercises to focus on self-care tasks. Through physiotherapy, Stephen is now able to walk independently for short distances.


“The staff are exceptional. They spent untold hours working with me. It was intense, but I felt supported the whole way.”

Part of Stephen’s rehabilitation journey involved exploring returning to work through In-Voc, a vocational support service operated by Royal Rehab.

“As work played a significant part in Stephen’s life pre-injury, we explored ways that he could stay connected and a customer service role in the mechanic workshop was identified as a realistic option,” explained Jane Allen, In-Voc Vocational Counsellor.

In-Voc facilitated a submission to the Job Access Employee Assistance Fund (EAF) scheme which is set to conduct a workplace assessment with a view to providing access to adaptive equipment.

“I feel physically and mentally ready to return to the farm and the workshop. It’s been a long journey, but I am thrilled with my progress,” said Stephen.