Having to sell his beloved fishing boats broke Barrie’s heart, but the 60-year-old amputee is back on the water thanks to supports he receives from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
“No one will take me out on a boat these days, I’d end up shark bait, so I’ve taken up kayaking in the causeway instead,” he said.
“I’ve had to relearn how to balance in a kayak, because you’d be surprised how much weight is missing from that leg and how much you have to compensate for that.”
Barrie, who lives in Koongal, North Rockhampton, is also using his NDIS supports to have a heat pump and a hoist installed at his above-ground pool so he can do hydrotherapy at home year-round.
The NDIS previously funded physiotherapy and hydrotherapy to help Barrie maintain his physical capacity. Home modifications have also been done to his home to accommodate for his wheelchair, including bathroom alterations.
In 2019, just before COVID hit Australia, Barrie had a below the knee amputation following health complications related to his diabetes. He’d previously had a left toe amputation and has some reduction in upper limb function.
After Barrie’s amputation surgery, the two-time stroke survivor was told by doctors that he was brought back to life on the operating table twice.
“I remember coming to in the ICU and a doctor walked past and saw me and said, ‘You’re a lucky man Barrie, you went into septic shock during the operation and died twice’,” Barrie said.
The father of 4 and grandfather to 3, spent 4 months in Rockhampton and Yeppoon hospitals recovering, making sure nurses wheeled him outside to the sun to help his wounds heal.
Barrie uses a wheelchair and crutches for mobility after he tried to use a prosthesis during rehabilitation and had a fall that “blew the kneecap and ligaments off my good leg”.
“Since then, I decided I’m not going down the road of prosthesis and have just gone with wheelchairs,” he said.
In the past year, thanks to regular exercise and a good diet, Barrie’s health has improved; he’s even been able to stop talking insulin, something he says ‘floored’ his diabetic educator.
Barrie has an electric mobility scooter he uses to go out and to walk the dog, and a manual wheelchair for use at home, both funded through his NDIS plan.
“It’s been a challenging time, especially after I had to give up driving because I had this stroke and one of my eyes keeps closing even though I have full vision,” he said.
“There are other people out there worse off than me, but I also want others to know not to give up and keep living life.
“While it was hard having to sell my two boats, I’m getting back on the water in a kayak so I can fish and that’s a basic start.”
Barrie used to own a lawn mowing business and worked as groundsman at a primary school in Rockhampton. He said he didn’t know what the NDIS was until he was recovering in hospital after his amputation.
“It wasn’t until a social worker told me I could apply for the NDIS and then started explaining it to me,” he said.
“Marie, from Carers Queensland, explained how it worked and gave me brochures about it. She explained it to me really well and helped me to access the Scheme.
“She is someone I often reach out to if I need help with my NDIS plan. Having someone like Marie to help me when I’ve got questions is handy.”
Barrie, who has lived in Rockhampton for 40 years, is optimistic about his future despite events of the past few years.
“Some get it nice and easy and others get a challenge. I just keep saying to everyone, ‘You’re still going, so don’t give up just yet’.”
Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.
If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can help you identify and link to options for support in your community.
You can also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up to our LAC Connect app here.