I was a patient at the P.A. Spinal Unit for almost 13 months, from late 2003 – early 2005, about a month after arriving in QLD from NZ, as a 17 year old. My dad lived at Tambourine Village at the time and as my dad’s address was more 50 kilometres away and I was in a long term ward, we were eligible for a weekly rental allowance.
We were fortunate enough to find a small one bedroom unit that was walking distance from the P.A. & no more than the $200 a week allowance. This allowed for my step sister to stay in Brisbane during the week & spend the day with me and my family could come up on the weekend to visit; sometimes they would take me to South Bank.
The first moment I felt somewhat normal after my accident, I was sitting on the couch watching TV and eating dinner with my family on a Sunday evening in that unit. This unit also allowed for my mum to come up from Sydney for a few days at a time, throughout the year; her husband is an interstate truck driver, and each time would bring up one of my younger siblings with them for the visit (the youngest of whom only being 1). This not only allowed me time with my mum but gave my step sister and family some respite from weekly trips into the city.
I can speak from experience that there are many benefits of having a centre like the one being proposed. Over time everyone becomes like an extended family in the Spinal Unit; my step sister became friends with and helped most of us patients in there, and if my family went out for dinner we would often be joined by another patient whose family lived further away. It’s as though our families were coming in to visit us all. Having my family around constantly helped me to not focus on what I was missing back in NZ and what would have been my final year of high school.
Despite being isolated from my schoolmates, I always had visitors, thanks to our luck in acquiring that unit. It’s easy to become insulated in the Spinal Unit, so being able to get out and about at the earliest opportunity prepared me for the challenges one must face in the community, hitting curbs and falling, the difference in the way people treat you now etc. I heard of too many people hitting the wall once they got home as they had been led to believe that things would go back to normal once home, but eventually you become old news.
I could have benefited from a centre whilst I was living out at Tambourine Village, as the lack of public transportation there made getting out difficult and resulted in many late night drives back from concerts and sporting events. There are many already in the community who rely on Support workers to put them to bed, and rarely stay up past 10 30pm as a result, which is sad when you consider the age range of most people with a SCI is 16 – 32. A centre like the one being proposed by Spinal Home Help, will provide ongoing benefits for people with a Spinal Cord Injury, from the time they’re in the SIU, to those first few months at home and beyond.