After a serious motorbike accident in January 2019, Petey was told he would probably never walk again. The accident caused severe injuries which also left him unable to do everyday things for himself – like going to the toilet, getting dressed, and preparing meals. But with support from the team at Healthscope Independence Services, Petey has achieved far more than anyone expected. In fact, one of his support workers describes Petey as a ‘living miracle’. Now 25, Petey walks without any assistive devices and even hopes to return to playing AFL.
Petey’s difficulties were largely the result of an acquired brain injury (ABI). An ABI is any injury to the brain that occurs after birth and causes include stroke, diseases affecting the brain, lack of oxygen, alcohol or drug use, or – as in Petey’s case – a physical injury1. A 2021 Department of Health media release notes that more than 700,000 Australians are living with a brain injury, two out of every three of whom acquire it before the age of 25, and three-quarters of people with a brain injury are men.2 The impact of an ABI varies and can range from mild to profound, with common effects including fatigue, slowed mental processes, personality and behavioural changes, and difficulties with physical function1.
Petey’s accident occurred when he hit a car while riding a motorbike at high speed. After several months in hospital, in November 2019 Petey moved into Stepping Stones – a home where people can transition to more independent living while receiving support to participate in intensive community-based rehabilitation. His main goals were to walk and complete everyday tasks like showering, dressing and making his bed independently. ‘I was in a wheelchair at the start for about a year and a half,’ explains Petey. ‘I had to learn to walk and talk again and to go to the toilet. I had to do exercises every single day.’
The House Supervisor and the team at Stepping Stones worked closely with Petey to help him achieve his goals. The staff also worked with Petey’s treating team to assist with the home-based aspect of his rehab program. Petey says he couldn’t have done it without the team’s help. ‘It’s been awesome. The staff used to get me motivated every day, saying, “Come on, let's do your exercises”. I appreciate them so much.’
During 2021, after becoming more independent, Petey moved into Waverley Palms – a home where 24/7 support is available. Now, his days look very different. ‘I go to the toilet by myself and do my washing. I've got to the point where I can go out for a coffee by myself.’
Another significant goal for Petey was reconnecting with his children, aged eight, seven and four. Most weeks, a support worker from Waverley Palms takes him to a local park to spend time with them. ‘It's the best thing in my week,’ he says. Petey also hopes to start running again so he can get back to AFL. His support worker also assists Petey to attend hydrotherapy, wood working, an art program and a peer support group.
Petey’s Waverley Palms support worker explains that in addition to supporting Petey, she and the team help keep him on track with his goals. ‘He has challenging days where he's not so motivated, but we remind him that he's so much better now,’ she says. ‘Petey is building his confidence and learning strategies. He turns to staff to support him at times when he is frustrated, which allows staff to support him through those challenging times. ‘
Petey is also receiving support to find a job, with help from an employment agency, his support worker explains. She says she and Petey have a great working relationship. ‘I love that we can have a serious conversation, but we also laugh a lot. He’s very thoughtful. He’s always asking, “Do you need a coffee? Are you hungry?”
But the best part of her work is seeing changes in the people she’s supporting. ‘There's a big difference when you're passionate about your job,’ his support worker says. ‘For me, it's seeing the way little things can make such an impact. Petey came here from not being able to walk to walking with no aids. Every day he gets faster. And I get to be part of that. It’s very rewarding.’
Petey greatly appreciates the support he’s received. ‘It's the best experience I've had,’ he says. ‘Without the staff, I wouldn't be as good as I am. Every day I get told I'm doing awesome. They make me feel good about myself.’
And Petey has big plans. ‘In the long run I'd like to own my own house and have my kids live with me. I’d like to give them a place that's always theirs. I never had anything like that – I grew up in an environment of substance abuse.’
He is also aware how far he’s come: ‘It's been a long journey, but I'm better now. That's the main thing.’