Always smiling, Lindsay comes from a loving and supportive family with whom he shares a love of sports. All sports, from cricket to athletics and especially motorsports. His mate Perry Cross calls him a ‘petrol head’. Lindsay recalls being an active kid who loved to spend time with his dad and would help him mow the lawns. His dad would often tell him to ‘slow down’ and remind him that ‘not everything is a race!’
Lindsay enjoyed school and revelled in a busy life of Army Cadets and sport. His life changed on the last day of school when a terrible accident took place.
“I’ll never forget the day of my accident because it was the last day of Year 12.”
“We got our senior certificates on Friday and said goodbye. I was looking forward to starting a new job on Monday and I had a cadets camp to go to over the weekend.”
“I met a group of mates at Southbank on a hot summers day, in the middle of the day and we decided to go for a swim. Four of us ran into the pool, 3 came up and I was the unlucky one that hit my head and the rest is history.”
Lindsay knew straight away something was terribly wrong. He was lying face down in the water and could not move.
“I tried to move and rollover, but I just couldn’t.”
“I blacked in and out at this time and I was lucky not to drown.”
An off-duty nurse from a spinal unit in NZ assisted at the scene alongside Lifeguards and Lindsay’s shocked friends.
Lindsay became a C4/C5 quadriplegic because of this accident and endured many painful months in the spinal unit at hospital, devasted. He spent his 18th birthday, Christmas, New Years and Easter in hospital.
His youngest brother was only 6 weeks old at the time, his other brother in grade 10 and his father was working 6 days a week and so the accident turned the family upside down. His parents were incredibly supportive and visited him every day in hospital.
Despite the pain, uncertainty and overwhelm Lindsay was focussed on getting moving again. When he was finally able to sit in a wheelchair, he would push this manual chair around the halls of the hospital every night.
“My theory was, I’m going to use it or lose it and so I kept pushing.”
The nurses would find me asleep against the corridor walls because I was pushing until I couldn’t push anymore.”
Lindsay’s incredible determination has defined his life ever since. He has worked hard to inspire others around him and even reached out to help others whilst he was in the spinal unit which is where he met Perry Cross.
“I used to visit the spinal unit to talk to people and this is where I met Perry. I used to visit Perry and have a chat. I’d borrow his shoes from time to time!”
The time spent in the spinal unit was hard and confronting and it took Lindsay time to adjust to his changed circumstances and altered body.
“The spinal unit was an eye opener. I was only 17 nearly 18 and I learnt a lot in that unit, stuff guys that age aren’t supposed to learn.”
“I had a really supportive nursing care team, but it was hard. The doctors were telling me I wouldn’t walk again, friends were dropping off, but I was also learning about my body and medicine like how a catheter works. It took time to adjust. The nurses taught me how to look after my body to keep healthy.”
The doctors and nurses helped him to become more independent which was important and the beginning of life after his accident.
“The doctors and nurses ran a tough, hard hospital. It was tough love, they told it like it was which was important because when you go home you don’t have that bubble around you and 24-hour support, and someone to help you. So, I learnt how to be independent.”
“After my time in traction the nurse would put me in a recliner chair so I wouldn’t pass out and faint. I had to learn to move my arms and get stronger, feed myself, manage personal care, learn how to push a wheelchair, how to hold a pen and write again, learn how to use a computer.”
Lindsay has now been in a wheelchair longer than he walked for.
“Pre and post injury is like two separate lives. I have been in a chair longer than I walked for. This was a very difficult milestone.”
“When you look back, the little things you used to be able to do were so easy. You never know what is coming around the corner. You don’t have a crystal ball and it happens in a heartbeat.”
The only choice Lindsay had was to adjust and it took time and courage.
“Once I realised my restrictions, I learnt how to use the computer and how to sign my name again. I would sign 50 pages every day of my name and would try to turn the page. Using my wallet and then learning how to drive an electric wheelchair and go to the shops.”
Lindsay continued to push himself in the pursuit of independence and went on to run the monthly BBQ in the spinal unit – a highlight for everyone. He would collect money off the patients and buy the food, organise who was cooking and do the shopping. This social interaction was so important for his wellbeing and Lindsay also recognised the value of rehabilitation and worked with a great team at the hospital to rebuild his body and realise his potential.
“I would do physio and OT 5 days a week, twice a day.”
“I would talk to my physio about travelling again and I realised there is a life after my injury, and we aren’t just going to sit at home and bounce off the walls and go crazy.’
This is where Lindsay’s perspective shifted, and he began focusing on life’s possibilities.
“My outlook is; it is what it is, you have to make the most of it, life goes on’. I’ve had a very supportive family.”
Of course, it has been very hard watching friends move on with life; going to work, university, travelling and now getting married and having families but Lindsay has been able to keep a positive mindset with the help of his family.
“There is stuff I haven’t been able to achieve because of my injury but then again I have been able to do things that I may never have been able to do.”
“I still live a full life where I am able to travel, work and volunteer.”
“My folks said to me; this is what it is going to be like now, this is life now, you are going to have to make the most of what it is and we will help you and support you in whatever you want to do.”
With the support of his family and friends, Lindsay has gone on to live in his own home, travel the world and find fulfilling employment. He has lectured at local universities for over 20 years sharing his experience and has volunteered and helped to raise money for the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation. He also still visits the spinal unit to help newly injured patients learn about what their future can look like.
“There is opportunity out there we just have to learn how to find those opportunities, how to find the right people and get on board.”
“I’ve had a great time, I’ve made the most of it.”
Lindsay’s courage and willingness to take life’s opportunities is truly inspiring. In 2019 in Hawaii, Lindsay was able to swim in a pool and in the ocean again after 26 years. He has snow skied, snorkelled and surfed his way around the globe.
As for curing paralysis, Lindsay is optimistic and supportive of the global effort to help get people walking again.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, we are getting there. The research and the work of the Foundation is coming along.”
“The rehab is also coming along, in fact people are moving into their chairs much quicker than we did. We spent months in hospital before we moved to a chair and started to rebuild our strength. Now people are in a chair 24, 48 hours after their injury. This helps with muscle tone and muscle memory.”
It most certainly has not been an easy journey and for every good day there have been many hard days in between. Lindsay’s determination so many years post injury is incredible. He is a great supporter of the Foundation and a true champion.
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