Client Stories » Robert

Building a new life

Author: Robert
Date: March 1st, 2004

My name is Robert and this is a story of living with an acquired brain injury, or ABI.

I was born in Sydney in 1958, and grew up in Pagewood. I had many interests when I was young, reading a wide range of books, playing ten pin bowling, chess, swimming and cricket. I had a pretty good childhood often going to Queensland for family holidays.

In 1970 I was in first form at high school, I attended South Sydney Boys High School. I was a straight ‘A’ student having an IQ of around 130-140. But on April the 18th, while working after school as a paper boy disaster struck, or rather a car did. It was driven by someone who’d been drinking at a bowling club and had impaired reaction plus they were speeding. My brain was rocked back and forth over the sharp ridges inside my skull as a result of the impact causing my ABI. The accident put me in hospital for 4 months, and I was unconscious for 6 weeks.

For a long time I didn’t accept that my ABI had caused any changes. However there were limitations the ABI put upon me, such as, dropping down classes at school and reduced ability to play sport. A number of my fellow students left me out and treated me differently. Because I wasn’t mixing with people as much as I use to my social skills were reduced. So in some ways life has been a bit more difficult for me due to my ABI.

The accident occurred while I was in what is now called year 7. After the accident my grades dropped, but with a lot of hard work I managed to obtain my HSC. In 1977 I started work at the Australian Tax Office. Over these years I was able to maintain a good level of work for the Department. In 1999 I was placed in the Returns Processing section. This work required greater speed and accuracy and very good computer skills. Due to my ABI I have some difficulty with maintaining concentration, short term memory problems, and organisational skills. Tax was becoming more computerised and the work more complicated. The stress on me as well as others was increasing. I left the Tax Department in July 2000, on Invalidity Retirement.

Since my retirement I have been involved with the peer support group for people who have an ABI, Mindfields. I have also become involved with HeadEast as a member of both the Community Education and Newsletter teams. This gives me the chance to write stories and poetry which has been a love of mine for over 20 years. I reached one of my goals when my poem ‘The Rose and the Thorn’ was published in 2001 in an anthology of Australia’s Best Poetry, which you can read at the end of my story. My aim now is to be able to have my own novel published.

I’ve been a soldier with the Salvation Army since 1985 where I have continued to volunteer at special events like the Paralympics as well as street ministry and donation collection in my local area.

In joining the workforce and being a volunteer with the Salvation Army my skills have developed and my interests have expanded. Mixing with people at HeadEast and Mindfields has given me confidence and the capacity to converse more freely and given me confidence to travel around the world. I’ve been to Europe, Fiji, Singapore, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, as well as all around Australia.

My message is not just aimed at drivers but also pedestrians as they also have a responsibility on the roads. If you take drugs and or drink to excess or are simply careless in your attitude on the road, then you have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life. How would you feel if you were to hit and either badly injure or kill someone on the road? This is something worth thinking about.

The Rose And The Thorn
By Robert

How could life be more than this;
The gentle breeze blowing,
The tide rolling in,
And the river silently flowing?

And yet in this tranquillity,
There is no peace,
For I am alone,
And the pain will just increase.

For the loneliness is like a cell
Not made of earthly things,
But loneliness is shattered,
When the bird of daylight stings.

For the loneliness is like the night,
Broken by the dawn,
By the beauty of the rose,
But beware of the thorn.

The thorn of pain can bring you death,
Though the rose has brought you life
And when the flower is lost,
It can cut just like a knife.

But look again upon the thorn,
And the one who wore it’s crown,
He came to build new life,
Not to tear it down.