01.INSIGHT - Paraquad SA

ICK Benwell had a
well-paid job at a
mine, a buzzing social life and an adventurous streak.
In many ways he was the
quintessential Aussie lad; who
worked hard, partied hard, and
was a bit of a larrikin who
would do anything for his
' -At the heart of his passion
for life were his motorbikes but
it was that passion that would
change his life forever.
On June 3, 2012, while riding his dirt-bike on an off-road
track in the Riverland, he
slammed into a tree stump,
hidden under scrub.
The impact catapulted the
electrician more than Sm from
his motorcycle and he landed
on his head, paralysing him
from the neck down.
"I knew I was immediately
paralysed," he says. "I was just
thinking about how hard I had
worked to get where I was. But
the biggest thing I was worried
about was my little brother
who had been with us (on the
trip). I didn't want to die right
in front of him. I felt like I was
just hanging on (to life).
"My life was a lot different
to what it is now. I was living
with two friends in Norwood,
we had a 'townhouse that
backed on to The Parade and 1
had a busy social calender.
"I was into motorbikes - I
had a race bike for the track, a
road bike and the dirt bike."
He says be used to go to the
horse racing, on wine tours
and would go on a holiday
every three months when he
wasn't working hard in Western Australia.
"The life I lived was one that
a lot of people looked on with
envy ... I had enough money to
do what I liked - I lived a great
lifestyle," he says.
"And then suddenly I was
completely debilitated.
"Now I'm in a situation
where I'm lying in bed and I
get a bit of sleep in my eye and
I can't even clear that out.
Even simple itches on your
head and your face you can't
satisfy. There were points
where I was lying in a hospital
bed and couldn't call out to
anyone and I could be stuck in
agony for hours.
"It really felt like I should
have just died in that accident
- like 'what is the point of
being where I am now?"'
After nine weeks in Royal
Adelaide Hospital's Intensive
Care Unit, Mr Benwell was
able to breathe on bis own, eat
and talk. He spent a year at
Centre, where he started to adjust to his new life.
It was during his time in a
where Mr Benwell was at his
lowest. "I definitely went
through a bout of suicidal
tendencies, thinking 'all I'm
doing is surviving, I'm not living'," he says.
"But once I got out of the
hospital environment and into
support accommodation, I was
able to turn my mind around.
"Now I'm glad I did survive
the accident."
It can take just a split second for a South Australian to
suffer a life-changing spinal
cord injury. According to notfor-profit support group ParaquadSA, about 40 to 50 South
Australians become a paraplegic or quadraplegic each
year - about half of those from
road accidents.
"It doesn't sound like a big
number but when you look at
the impact on those individuals, it's massive," ParaquadSA
chief executive Peter Stewart
says. He says males aged 15-24
are five times more likely to
suffer spinal injuries. "That,
unfortunately, is due to risktaking behaviour - males tend
to be a bit more dimwitted
than females,'' he says.
Mr Stewart says the emotional toll is profound, but spinal cord injuries also have a
significant cost to the community. He says it costs about
$6 million to support a paraplegic over the course of a
lifetime, up to $10m to support a quadriplegic for life
and costs the
state $200m a year.
"It's not cheap
provide that support," he says. ......,._..
"The costs will
increase over time -people are
living with spinal cord injury
for longer."
Former Adelaide triathlete
Yvette Eglinton found out she
had qualified for the World
shortly after she suffered a spinal cord injury during training.
As part of her vigorous
training regime, the Hallett
Cove woman, 35, would cycle
to work with her partner Kriston Bott, 39, every morning.
But on March 31, 2009, she
pushed up on her pedals to
catch up with her partner on a
steeper section of the Esplanade, in Brighton, when she hit
a pothole. She was flung over
the handlebars and hit her
head on the road. "(My partner) saw the whole thing happen, which would have been
horrible," she said. '1t was normal for
us to ride to
-work and
it was just
unfortunate that day ended in in rowing. When she did not
such life-changing circum- qualify, she decided it was time
stances. I couldn't feel from my to start a family. She and Mr
chest down so I knew there Bott now have two sons,
was something wrong straight Dylan, 20 months, and Jensen,
who was born on February 12.
away," she said.
''When I was looking at
She sustained a spinal
cord injury at T4
starting a family,
thankfully there
and broke her
was a girl out at
neckat Cl.
who has been
was in rehab
GUY BEFORE AND in a wheelthere was a
IT HAS COME BACK chair for 16
guy there who
years and she's
was a quadri-IT HAS JUST
got two girls,"
plegic. He had a
helicopter acci- TAKEN A WHILE. she said. ".I went
there and spoke to
dent, and he had
two young kids and
her and I think it's imyou just feel sorry for him
portant for young women in
because he couldn't even hug wheelchairs to have that contact. She had no one to help
his children," she said.
"He would have given any- her when she had her kids.
"I was thankful to have her
thing in the world to have the
ability I had and he still had a for advice, and just knowing
good attitude, he was just you can do it."
Mr Stewart says SCI sufferhappy to be alive.
"You just have to think, ers inspire him every day with
'these are the cards I have been their positivity and ability to
dealt' . I took it in my stride but adjust to new lives. After a SCI
I had a lot of moments where I they can have diminished cawould break down and start reer prospects, difficulty with
new and existing relationships,
Once discharged from and may lose friends.
'We do see there's a drop
Centre after four-and-a-half off rate with friends ... because
months, Ms Eglinton went they find their friend is a differ~~ back to work as a mar- ent person after an accident
"' ..... ine biologist for the ahd it becomes hard to relate,"
State Government. he says. "(Paraquad SA) focus
She also got straight on the loss of mobility, but it's
back into sport, the loss of everything else that
training for the Lon- just bas an enormous impact
don 2012 Paralympics on the individuals, their family