Pat and Rhonda
Newlyweds Patrick and Rhonda were starting an exciting new chapter together, when a freak accident changed the course of their lives in an instant.
“Pat and I had only been married seven weeks when we went to purchase a leasehold caravan park,” said Rhonda.
“We were watching the move of an old steam engine from the caravan park when a cast iron chimney fell and crushed Pat’s spinal cord. Our shoulders were touching when it fell, but it hit Pat’s shoulder and not mine, leaving him a T2 paraplegic.”
The accident instantly changed the New South Wales couple’s lives, and for the past 18 years Rhonda has been Pat’s dedicated full-time carer. Rhonda herself has also had cancer twice in the past five years.
“I’m a carer now, more than I am a wife,” said Rhonda.
“It’s been really hard for us, especially because I had to cut down to causal work to look after Pat, and after the accident we were left with no money.”
After 17 hospital stays in 11 months, doctors told Pat that exercise was essential to keep his body functioning, so the couple invested in a specialised exercise bike. Pat uses the bike for two hours each day, seven days per week, or risks his muscles seizing up and Rhonda no longer being able to care for him in their home.
However, Pat and Rhonda’s house was not well set-up to fit the bike, and with no other alternative Pat was forced to exercise on the bike in their backyard shed – whatever the weather conditions.
“We were so lucky to have the equipment, but we just didn’t have anywhere to put it!” said Rhonda.
“Pat had to exercise out in the shed where it’s below zero temperatures in winter and boiling hot in the summer… We just thought we’d never be able to afford to modify our home how we needed to.
“It wasn’t until we heard about the Youngcare grants that we thought, ‘Maybe we can make this happen’.”
Rhonda and Pat successfully applied for a Youngcare At Home Care Grant to modify their home and build a dedicated room that can fit all of the equipment that Pat needs to maintain his health and remain at home with his family – out of aged care.
Rhonda said, “It’s been tough, but this beautiful little exercise room has given us a lot of happiness. When Pat exercises now, he can see across the paddock to the dam among the trees. Without the grant, Pat would still have been stuck in the shed looking at a blank wall.
“To put it in a few words, this grant has given Pat his life back. Pat has a life at home, he is safe. We are eternally grateful to people who donate to Youngcare because this has just been brilliant.
“When we remember what we do have left, it’s definitely a glass half full.”
The Youngcare At Home Care Grants in New South Wales are proudly supported by GIO.