spinal-cord injury

Goodbye Paradise and thanks for all the fish

Let me start by giving my apologies to those of you who occasionally glance at this blog wanting to know how I have been, only to find me absent for months.   By way of explanation, the problem started in hospital when I was moved from a private room into a shared four-bedroom ward. At the time the situation was fairly distressing and I did not have the emotional energy to continue with blogging. Even if I had wanted to, the voice recognition software that I use to type simply does not work in open spaces. I need a quiet room to ensure that background conversation does not confuse the program.

Cameron and I posing

As it turns out, I enjoyed spending the last months of my hospital stay in a room with quality young men who shared the challenges and the stupidity and the hilarity of  our out of control bodies. In the bed next to me, Cameron McMullen was a South Coast boy (Ulladulla) who broke his neck diving into the surf. His injury is similar to mine,  and he is a 28-year-old married father of two young toddlers. He has an indomitable spirit and along with his lovely wife Jade he is facing the difficulties of life after spinal-cord injury positively and with real determination. He has been helped by amazing community support from people in his hometown. In addition to friendship and hospital visitation, they have put on fund raising events that have  been wildly successful and helped him build a wheelchair friendly house.  this sort of support is of incalculable value, especially since Cameron cannot return to his previous profession (he owned a bread run). And in case you were wondering, he is not a member of  a local church – generosity of spirit is certainly not an exclusively Christian trait.

N.b. this is not a sly way of asking for money! I have been well looked after, especially by my family and Alphacrucis college. Also, I am blessed with the profession to which I can return (and which I love) –  even if full-time work might be a challenge. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to lose both the function of your body and  your means of employment.

On the other side of the room, Dean Martelozzo is a 21-year-old who broke his back skiing in France and is now paraplegic. Dean is also  moving ahead in leaps and bounds and I can well imagine him going on to win a medal at the Paralympic games! Dean is not much older than my own son, but it was great to share a room with him. Made me feel young again, especially with his posters of surfers and bikini girls covering the wall. The feminist in me might have  to be tempted to remove some of the posters (my wife did graffiti one by adding a male appendage!)  but the truth is that, notwithstanding the impact of spinal injury on certain parts of the body, I am still a man!

So many other quality people I was able to share life with  in hospital. Vicky Walters (supported by her wonderful husband Cliff and gorgeous family)  broke her neck riding a horse in a Rodeo and is now also a quadriplegic (to be more precise, she walked into hospital after the accident but  was rendered immobile after a botched operation at Wollongong Hospital). She has experienced a lot of pain and rehabilitation has been slow. Even so she blesses everyone she meets. She is a woman of faith and prayer and is able to light up a room. On my last weekend in hospital Vicky and Cliff escorted Cameron and I to the beach at Coogee. Vicky was delighted to watch Cameron and I bogging our wheelchairs  in the sand, needing Cliff to push us out. She was driving a four-wheel-drive chair that she will need when she returns to her farm, so she was able to enjoy our problems going cross-country in our poncey ‘city’ chairs.

Kerry Sanders is another woman of faith who broke her back in a fall. Injuries to her bottom have kept her in bed for months, most of the time lying on her tummy.  I spent a number of weeks in bed he is a horrible experience. It takes a special kind of person to remain positive in bed for months at a time.  As testimony to her strength, everyone  she meets loves her.  Goodness must run in her family, as her sister, Di, would bring me food–the ultimate kindness in a hospital serving plastic meals.

I’m not sure whether or not life will keep me in contact with these great people–and the many others I met in hospital. I hope so. On 9 April I returned home – Just over seven months in Paradise.  I thought the day would never come. It is so much better to be back with my family and out of the institutional drudgery of the Prince of Wales. But I am thankful for what was done for me in hospital–doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physios,  psychologists giving their all for my rehabilitation. Where would I be without them? And where would I be without the encouragement of my fellow patients? God bless them all.

PS for those of you wondering about the meaning of the title to this post, it is a reference to Douglas Adams’ series, the hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy.  It really bears no relation to anything that I’ve said, but it popped into my head and I so went with it….

About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Neil Ormerod
    June 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Great to see you back on the blog; more power to you, Shane. Keep us all amazed at your strength and grace.

  • Shirley
    June 9, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Hospital fish is the pits! It does not look like fish and does not smell like fish!
    Anyway I am glad that you are home and doing as well as can be expected. Yes you are lucky in one sense and that is you still have a career, even if lecturing is part time. I am sure that you have alot of books that can be written in your head. It would be a shame not have your wonderful insights in written form for the rest of us mortals.
    In others way you are also fortunate in that unlike some others you have a family that love you and support you and that includes a Christian family.
    hang in there and *hugs* to keep you encouraged.

  • Tara
    June 9, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I have loved hearing from you. People walk in and out of our lives and can leave something extraodinary…I hope you realise you are one of those people.

  • michael jensen
    June 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Great to hear from you again Shane.

    • Jonathan Gibbard
      June 9, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      Glad to hear from you Shane. I think your story will definitely go down in the history books. You are such an inspiration to those who are in dark places trying to be strong! 🙂

  • Craig Benno
    June 10, 2011 at 9:12 am

    7 months is a long time. In many ways it takes a lot of readjustment to come back home from a safe secure environment that the hospital provides…or should provide, as your friend’s story about the botched operation shows us that stuff ups can happen.

  • Ada
    July 8, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Hey Shane! Nice to read that your final months in the hospital were shared with other admirable people that face similar challenges and are doing so as best they can. Wonderful to read of the support of loved ones as well. Thanks for sharing continued insight into your world!


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