Scott’s story – Learning resilience through rehab

Scott shows us that although the path may change, the end goal can still remain the same

After living overseas and working as a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach, Scott returned to Australia with his girlfriend Angie to resume his studies and make the next move in his career – launch his own fitness business. Scott had a plan, but his path took a slight detour in December 2016.

Taking advantage of the summer holidays, Scott was at Coogee Beach with Angie and a friend when he dove into the water and his forehead caught the edge of a sandbar, instantly snapping his neck and rendering him unconscious.

“I was just sort of floating in the water for a little while,” says Scott. “If I had been half an inch higher, I probably would have missed the bar, but I was just in the perfect spot.”

Angie was watching Scott from the shore and rushed into the water when she lost sight of him.

“I grabbed him and I remember saying to him, ‘Are you joking?’ His eyes were shut and he wasn’t responsive,” says Angie. “I didn’t even think about spinal cord damage or anything – I just put him on my chest to keep his mouth out of the water. That’s all I cared about.”

Scott spent several months at Prince of Wales Hospital where he was diagnosed a C6 tetraplegic, meaning partial paralysis of the upper limbs and complete paralysis of the trunk and lower limbs. Scott began his rehabilitation at Royal Rehab in February 2017.

Through months of daily physiotherapy and occupational therapy, Scott slowly began to regain the strength he needed to do the little things that make everyday life possible. From eating and getting dressed, to transferring into and out of a wheelchair, rehab has been a steep learning curve for Scott.

“Being so strong and so literally useful and so independent, to the next second you are totally dependent – you’re helpless, you’re vulnerable, you are the polar opposite of everything you have been for however long…the acceptance of that is hard, but it’s really important for moving forward.” says Scott.

“When you first start, the list of things you can do is really short, but you just have to focus on those things. You have to be patient with yourself and you have to not let the bad times hang around for too long.”

Not one to slow down or shy away from a challenge, Scott kept a full and busy schedule. Continuing with school and work while still in rehab, Scott aimed to spend as much time in the community as he did in the gym to make his transition back home as smooth as possible.

Scott was also introduced to wheelchair rugby through recreation therapy at Royal Rehab. More than a pathway to sport and recreation, the weekly sessions provided a reinvigorating source of social support and a ‘brotherhood’ for Scott to connect with; an environment to meet and learn from peers and like-minded people.

Rehabilitation has been a rollercoaster ride through a world of emotions, successes and challenges for Scott, but there is one constant he has been able to depend on throughout his journey – Angie.

“She has been here every single day,” says Scott. “She quit her job straight away as soon as I had the accident. She put every single thing on hold.”

Always at Scott’s side, this journey has been as much Angie’s as it has been Scott’s, but she couldn’t imagine having it any other way.

“Everyone tries to give you advice, and it all comes from a good place, but you just have to do what you know is best,” says Angie.

Scott’s accident has no doubt brought major change for the path he envisioned, but his goals still remains the same as he returns to work and studies, still on track to building his own business.

The experience has also given both Scott and Angie a chance to re-evaluate their appreciation for the little things; for waking up next to each other, cooking together, doing the grocery shopping together. Suddenly, and refreshingly, these seem to outweigh everything else.

“Being here and just being alive basically is just so much better than the alternative.”