In 2020 Mick Chisolm and his children Bree & Max shared their story below as part of our SIP Week Campaign
Mick is a tough Aussie bloke who loves motocross, is a very hard working business owner and is dedicated to his teenage kids. Born in Sydney to loving parents, he and his brother have always enjoyed an active life of motocross, boating and adrenalin sports.
Mick’s life changed dramatically at age 44 on the 1st of December in 2017. On a hot summer day, he had a terrible motocross crash and broke his back (T10, T11 and T12) and became paralysed.
“I was motocross riding with my family, and I had what I thought was a small accident.”
“I went over the bars, which is never a good way to go.”
“My brother was with me when I had my accident, he was recording it, unfortunately, and it will haunt him forever.”
Mick hit a ditch, sending him over the handlebars, flipping his bike straight onto his back and crushing his spine. Incredibly Mick didn’t have a scratch or a bruise on him and at the time he thought he had just broken his shoulder and both legs. Mick and his brother couldn’t imagine he would soon be told he would never walk again.
“I remember flying through the air, I don’t remember how I landed, but I busted a fair bit of my body up when the bike landed on me. I broke my collarbone, 8 ribs and punctured my lungs.”
“I remember being in the foetal position not being able to move but I just thought I had snapped both my legs because I couldn’t feel my legs.”
Eventually 2 ambulances arrived in their remote location and the Paramedics quickly assessed the situation and called for a helicopter. Mick was in and out of consciousness and suffering from the extreme heat. He remembers the relief of the air conditioning in the helicopter and landing at the PA hospital in Brisbane.
“I remember looking at the Paramedic in the helicopter and thinking this might be the last bloke I am ever going to talk to.”
“I landed at the PA at about 6.30pm on a Friday night and to be honest I thought I was just about gone, I thought this was it. I don’t remember much after this for a couple of days.”
The skilled Paramedic who treated Mick had experience with spinal injuries and visited Mick in hospital a few times which had a lasting impact.
“He said at the time of the accident he was hoping for the best but deep down he knew I most likely would not have the best outcome. I don’t talk to him much these days but it’s amazing who can make a difference because his visits really touched me when I was in hospital.”
Hospital was a difficult and dark time for Mick as he struggled to process his changed reality. He declined assistance for his mental health and now regrets this choice.
“Mostly I have got myself to blame, because I didn’t seek any help in hospital, I just declined everything. I was too head strong, I thought I knew everything, but I can’t rewind that clock.
“I refused to have any photos taken of that time in hospital.”
“I loved the nurses and staff in the PA, but I didn’t have the best experience in the spinal ward.”
“Getting told that you will never walk again is not something I want to relive.”
Mick was desperate to get out of hospital and return to his life. He was running a successful plumbing business with 25 employees and had a family to support and soon became frustrated with his time in the hospital.
“Going into hospital certainly makes things difficult on every level.”
“When I was a week into my stay at the hospital and they told me, I would be there for 6 months, I told them there wasn’t a chance in hell I would be there for 6 months!”
“So, I checked myself out about 3 months and a couple of days in. I just said I am out, and I left.”
Mick was determined and his partner worked hard to adjust their beautiful brand-new home to be more accessible.
“We knew this was the only way to get me home, so we took things into our own hands.”
Mick worked hard to rebuild his life, but it was very challenging physically and emotionally. He made difficult changes to his business to keep it afloat and suffered financially in doing so.
“Financially this injury has been a massive cost, business wise. I’ve had to hire 2 to 3 more people to cover my role so that’s an expense because of the disability. We are managing to survive which is good, but its very testing because I’d like to be onsite, see my workers, see how the work is done and I have to rely on someone else to do that for me and that is hard. Financially the impact is ridiculous. We have set up the business to keep moving forward but it is very hard.”
“I had a pretty good life before and I don’t regret anything I have done but this injury has certainly taken a lot from me. Emotionally, mentally, financially, confidence wise with partners.”
“Your confidence takes a battering, mentally you take a battering.”
There have been many losses to adjust to including a relationship breakdown but his love for his children has pushed him forward. Like any Father Mick dreams of one day walking his daughter down the aisle. The thought of not being able to do this as a result of his injury leaves Mick emotional.
“I don’t want to roll down next to her, I want to walk down next to her.”
“Life is short as it is, I want to get upright. This is what I look forward to.”
More determined than ever to work on his physical and mental health, Mick now spends a lot of time working on his rehabilitation at Making Strides at Burleigh on the Gold Coast.
“Rehab is a massive part of the injury.”
“I go to rehab 3 or 4 days a week at Strides. I do have a busy life, but rehab is priority one in my life, and I want to get the best I can.”
“I was one of the earliest patients Making strides has ever seen. I was there within 3 months of my injury and I started 4 days a week.”
Over time Mick has realised his mental health is as important as his physical health and he has worked hard to come to terms with his injury.
“I enjoy life now, but it has definitely taken a couple of years to get my head around it. It’s only been the last 6 months that I have come to terms with everything.”
“It is what it is, I guess.”
“I think time and facing reality have made a difference for me. I know Making Strides is for physical improvement but mentally I keep coming back because of what it does for me. I get more benefits mentally from rehab than even physically. Talking to the trainers, talking to other people in the same position. The trainers know what you are going through even though they aren’t sitting in a chair. There are people who can give you tips and advice and that’s been my biggest improvement – soaking it up and listening to everyone I can.”
“I am getting stronger in my upper body and core which improves my day to day life.”
Mick’s resilience, work ethic and determination is inspiring but he is aware life can throw you obstacles and these can set you back.
“I did have a relationship breakup 12 months ago. Throw in the mix moving to a new house, the breakup, issues with kids and it’s s not hard to be thrown back into that dark hole. No one wants to go in there.”
“Everyone sees a brave face out and about but there are some dark times at home.”
In terms of the future, Mick would of course love to walk again and regain 100% function, but he would sooner gain other functionality.
“The hardest thing for me, if I could have anything back, it would be the use of my internal organs. Bowel and bladder function.”
“I’d like to have no pain in my legs.”
“I’d love to run and dive into the ocean again with my kids, but reality is reality and any improvement would be good.”
Mick is hopeful the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation SIP Research Project will help people regain movement and hopefully walk again.
“The research is fantastic; I went through the lab and it’s mind boggling!
“The work they are doing at Griffith University is unbelievable. I just hope it all comes to fruition one day and they see the benefit of what they have researched, and I hope we get to see the benefit of it too. If it’s not me I want to see one of my mates from Making Strides get up. That’s the goal and that’s why rehab is so important.”
Mick has an easy smile, a good sense of humour and can find the silver lining in his situation.
“We live in the best city in the world with Making Strides on our doorstep. The research is also happening here.”
“No one ever wants to be injured but I have met some of the most amazing people through my injury who I would never have met in my life.”
“I don’t want the injury and I didn’t ask for it, but I am glad to be living on the Gold Coast with the people who are supporting me.”