Mark makes tracks towards independence and freedom
ON A PATH TO REACHING GOALS AND INCREASING HIS INDEPENDENCE, FEROS CARE NATIONAL DISABILITY INSURANCE SCHEME (NDIS) PARTICIPANT, MARK, IS MAKING SERIOUS TRACKS.
Housebound after a car accident, at 17-years-of-age, which left him with an acquired brain injury and physical disability, Mark was unable to get out and about without support from parents, Denise and Brian.
Now 50, Mark is feeling the wind in his hair as he charges across the family property in Bluewater, Townsville, on his NDIS funded Action Trackstander.
Denise said it has just been wonderful for Mark’s happiness and independence.
MARK LOVES HEADING OUT AND EXPLORING HIS FAMILY PROPERTY
“The all-terrain wheelchair takes him out with his beloved dog, Bindi, on afternoon adventures,” she said. “They scope out the property and survey the fences, and now I’m saying words I haven’t said for more than three decades.
“Our kids were always outdoors, so for Mark, to be locked up for all those years and not able to get out, we can’t possibly understand what he was going through, but when this chair came, and he went off down to the back paddock, it was the first time in over 30 years I’ve said, ‘where’s Mark?’
“They’re the best words I’ve ever uttered. Mark always says life is like a deck of cards and you deal with the hand you’re dealt, but he’s a lot happier now.
“It’s really great; he’s now got the freedom he’s been searching for, for 33 years.”
That freedom, created through Mark’s determination with the assistance of Feros Care and the NDIS, makes for one of the happiest moments the family has experienced since June 16, 1987.
Remembering vividly, Denise recalled a policeman delivering news of the crash which left Mark, on his way to work as an apprentice butcher, in intensive care for 11 days and in a coma for 15 weeks.
Speaking of a journey of pain, persistence and never giving up after ignoring advice to put Mark in a home, Denise detailed the challenges and wins which led them down a long road to finding the happiness Mark is experiencing now.
“A sister at the hospital told us to put Mark in a home and move on, but we were never going to give up on him. There was only one home he was going to, and it was ours,” she said.
“We adapted, I went to work, and Brian stayed home as he could lift Mark. Mark couldn’t lift his head and he’s left-handed, but he couldn’t use the hand and we couldn’t unlock his fingers to cut his nails.
“A doctor from Sydney set an exercise program and people came six days a week, and Mark would scream in pain. We didn’t have money, so we improvised with equipment and used a 44-gallon drum, a piece of foam, and a sheet to roll Mark back and forward on, but it got him moving.”
Moving to Mackay for a slightly cooler climate, the next step in Mark’s progress came after a chance spotting of an article, which explained how burn suits were assisting people with physical disability.
Mark made the trek to Brisbane to find a suit through company, Second Skin, which proved a key factor in his recovery progress.
“The suit realigned Mark’s body and he can now open the fingers on his left hand, move his left arm, move and straighten both legs and give us plenty of cheek,” Denise said.
“We were told he’d never walk, talk or feed himself again, but he’s done pretty well.”
In searching for, and sourcing, the best possible equipment and aides to suit Mark’s needs, Denise said Mark’s happiness and ability to now do things he loves wouldn’t have been possible without the NDIS and assistance from Feros Care, after the family had made the move back to Townsville.
“Mark couldn’t do the things he wanted to do, and I heard about the Action Trackstander, so an occupational therapist (OT) came out, and Mark had trials in three different chairs,” Denise said.
“The first was the Trackstander; the next trial was a different chair, and the third was a Magic Mobility chair.
HOW LIVES ARE BEING CHANGED WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF THE NDIS
“We changed to Feros Care and Local Area Coordinator (LAC) Mandy came out with an OT who could see what Mark needed, and the Action Trackstander ended up being approved.”
Denise said previously Mark couldn’t make his way across the 25-acre property, but with its tracks like an army tank and distinction as the only chair able to bring the user to a standing position, Mark could now get around happily.
“It can go anywhere, and it’s absolutely superb,” she said. “He’s able to go down the back and check the fences and move about. He also received an NDIS funded GPS tracker watch, so if he gets into trouble, we can pinpoint exactly where he is.”
Outside of Mark’s chair and watch, Denise said while the house had been purpose built for Mark, the NDIS had funded new handrails on access ramps, a custom bed and rails in his bedroom.
Waiting to be installed is an automatic door from Mark’s bedroom out to a veranda, so he can safely exit in a hurry if there’s an emergency.
While the 2020 climate has made it tough to have Mark’s full needs tended to without face-to-face contact, getting out to activities such as ten pin bowling or other social activities now beckons.
A country music lover, Mark also loves a scotch and collecting war memorabilia, and a recent trip to Townsville’s Jezzine Barracks’ museum provided a big highlight.
After playing a role in getting the corner known then as “killer corner”, where Mark and Brian crashed, fixed after years of lobbying Denise was hopeful the change had saved other lives.
However, the desire to help others doesn’t stop there, and after witnessing the impact of the NDIS and crucially, Mark accessing the right supports through correct OT assessments of his needs and goals after a period of trial and error, Denise wanted to spread the word to positively impact others’ lives.
“Prior to the NDIS, we lived frugally and had no assistance, then after it came about, we’ve been lucky and received heaps of help,” she said.
“The NDIS has been so wonderful … it’s really given Mark his freedom and opened up another world for him.
“Mark’s a lot happier now, and that’s the freedom the NDIS provides people with, but you have to know what is available and accessible. We got that help and now we want to try and help others.”