Gavin’s life changed…

Like a lot of young guys, I wanted adventure. Living on the Kapiti Coast just north of Wellington, New Zealand since my school days and working as a cabinet maker and furniture restorer I knew there was more to life. I was going to find it!

Australia beckoned as it does for so many young Kiwis. Although my life was pretty good in Kapiti I wanted a better opportunity and way more fun! I wanted Sun, beaches, surf and a new adventure. Bring it on Aussie… Hey I wanted the bigger money I could earn too!

Packing and leaving family and friends was a bit tough but I was headed for way better times so taking everything in my stride off I went. A backpack, surfboard and a few belongings that I was sure to need once settled in across the ditch.

On arrival in the Sunshine Coast North of Brisbane everything went to plan. I got a great job with flexibility to surf, earning good money. Finding a place to rent was easy enough back then and the guys I worked with were terrific at helping me to find my way around. Of course, there was the parties they invited me to and all that sort of matey stuff (I couldn’t understand at first why everyone was “mate”).

My job was great a different trade to what I was doing back home but i was learning new skills and worked with a great crew of likeminded guys. Life was great, I was loving my job and my lifestyle.

Christmas was rolling around and one Thursday, around 10 December, the boss announced that there was to be an impromptu BBQ at a nearby river. A celebration for Christmas, everything laid on. Bring your boardies (swimwear) and everything else is on us. Fantastic, we were all pumped about that.

The spot for our BBQ was not too far from work and they laid on a bus to take us all, blankets laid out, food galore and a few beers. Nothing over the top, just social. We spent the whole afternoon enjoying the river with wake boards and jet skis, eating and drinking while relaxing on the river banks and for those few lucky ones, sitting in picnic chairs. I missed out on one of those.

That day is when my life changed.

While chilling on the river bank I suddenly jumped up being silly and dived into the river. Typical young guy, make a statement. Do the big bomb! Show everyone that I had no fear.

Shit! I can’t move. I’m sinking. I have no air. What’s happening, I can only shake my shoulders.

So many thoughts rushing through me. I was drowning. I couldn’t move but I am under water.

Realisation hit me like a freight train as my good “mate” tugged at me, grabbing me and turned me over, gasping, dying, living, crying, what was happening? It all happened so fast but I found out later that I had hit the bottom and broken my neck. I’m now a quad paraplegic. Shit. How does that fit into my new life I wondered?

After several months in hospital in Brisbane then being transferred to the Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch I was sort of on the mend. Wheelchair bound for life. How could this happen to me? But it did. I tried not to let me situation get me down, kept my sprits high and started to make the most of what lay ahead.

Finally, and after a long long time recuperating at Burwood and getting used to my new “normal” I was allowed to go home. Of course, that was to be back home in New Zealand, on the Kapiti Coast. Be near my support network, I was going to need them.

I remember with great excitement going back home. The house was the same and I was so happy to be out of that hospital. Now don’t get me wrong, the nurses and doctors at the hospitals were really great, caring and kind, but home is home. Yes?

Oh wow. What a shock!

Of course, by now I could get around in my wheelchair. I needed a carer to come every day to help get me out of bed, shower me, get me dressed and do my meals. For me, that is the new normal.

But there were obstacles! My home was full of obstacles and not accessible.

I had to manage door thresholds, kitchen cupboard doors where I wanted to put my legs when working at the bench, bench heights all wrong … the list went on and on. So, I needed the carer to help me with most things. But, I also wanted some independence.

My bathroom, like most homes, was not accessible. How was I to manage? The carer built some plywood lumber ramps so he could wheel my shower chair up the ramp and then turning 90 degrees he could push me inside the shower enclosure. Of course, he also had to build a false base inside the shower box for me to roll onto also. But water poured out everywhere, it was a nightmare and very dangerous for the carer. On top of all the lifting of me from the bed to the chair to the toilet to the shower chair only to then be at risk of slipping on the water-soaked floors!

We put up with this for a while before discovering the Showerbuddy transfer system. What a relief when we actually trialled that SB1 Showerbuddy!

It was easy, no more plywood and lumber ramps to drag around and set up, no more false plywood floor in the shower enclosure, just one set up of the Showerbuddy unit and I was having showers. I had my private shower again with my dignity intact. Wow, I was feeling so happy again. A nice warm shower makes you feel real again, and we had found that solution to give me a shower with dignity and in comfort.

To this day I use and love Showerbuddy, thank you to the inventor of this product. It is sturdy, non-rusting, comfortable, easy to set up and use and it gives me my bathing freedom, it makes me feel “real” again.

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