A Spring In Our Step
The positive news in Neil’s email, that I’d been selected as the speaker for the APS talk, was giving Dad and me a spring in our step…or in my case, a spring in my hop!
Dad and I go through the day’s routine a little brighter. At the end of the evening, I have a shower before bed. Suddenly, a flutter of distress ripples through me. “Gulp… how the hell am I going to take a shower at the hotel in Melbourne?” Hygiene and personal grooming are just a tad important to a professional speaker after all.
Let’s take a step back for one moment. Recently, my favourite pair of brown leather Geox thongs broke and I brought them to a professional shoe repairer who advised they were not repairable. A retired carpenter and builder by trade, Dad rose to the challenge once again and long story short, my Geox thongs are now still going strong. So, you don’t need the intellect of Albert Einstein to know to whom I brought my showering conundrum 😊
Dad thinks for a moment and smiles. Like all good tradesmen he has a solution and a tool for everything. He says “Let’s just do what we do now… you sit on something to shower right…?” Dad road tests his solution. It’s so simple and ingenious it makes me laugh out loud. Immediately, I feel the need to capture the moment with a photo and share it with my big brother Pete who lives in the UK. Like Dad, Pete watches and supports my speaking career albeit from afar. And like me, he’s a big fan of Dad.
“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” – Albert Einstein
Dad’s genius – one big travel bag that can fit all our luggage plus the stool
We’re only going to be in Melbourne overnight. We fly out on a Saturday, the following Sunday afternoon I speak and we travel back that evening. We hardly need any luggage and what we do need we pack around the stool. This particular stool, used by Pete and me to do our homework as kids, is brought out of mothballs for one very unusual, but important job. It has a vinyl cover, sponge seat and weightless metal frame, making it light enough to fly with. We plan to protect the stool from shower water by covering it with a heavy-duty plastic bag.
Finding an opportunity out of misfortune, combined with my 85-year-old dad’s willingness to go above and beyond, including managing our luggage, sees us off to Melbourne. I’m excited to be giving a talk about psychology and how it has impacted my life. I’ll be telling my story and acknowledging an amazing psychologist who in turn has his own unique story. If you read on you’ll find out about the surprising and touching twist that lies ahead.
Dad doing the heavy lifting
We wake up early on Saturday 7 October. We throw the last few items into the big travel bag on wheels. We order an Uber and set off for Brisbane airport. Dad pulls the bag while I hop along on crutches. Dad’s pretty fit and manages the bag and our carry on bag like Tiger Wood’s caddie! Qantas is on their game and has a wheelchair waiting at check in. Going through security, I gain a new appreciation of wheelchair bound people and their everyday difficulties.
We enjoy a hearty breakfast before boarding the plane. Taking off is pretty exciting, Dad and I have a wonderful adventure ahead of us.
Dad showing off his fat fingers and photography skills simultaneously at breakfast
Ready for take off
Everything goes smoothly, the flight, Qantas wheelchair assistance in Melbourne and the taxi ride to the hotel.
Qantas wheelchair assistance
Dad loves hearing about my speaking career and attends every talk he can. This talk was extra special because if it weren’t for dad attending but also facilitating my transport, I wouldn’t be here. Dad says to me in the taxi on the way to the hotel – with a big smile, “Looking good Billy Ray” and I respond, “Feeling good Lewis“, drawing on the famous line from the movie Trading Places.
Dad excited to have gotten us to Melbourne
At the hotel, I setup my lap top and second portable screen to practice my talk with a captive audience – Dad!
Rehearsing the talk
The captive audience
This is a first for us ̶ being in Melbourne together. It won’t be the last as my speaking career is continuing to grow. Soon we’ll be together in Sydney when I speak at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in July 2018. The night before the big event, to say thanks for making this talk happen, I treat dad to a steak dinner at TGI Fridays beside the Yarra River.
The least I could do was to treat Dad to a steak dinner
I like to shower every night before bed, it refreshes me and helps me get a good night’s sleep. Tonight’s shower is made possible by none other than Block! My mum’s mum, my grandmother, Ethel May Elliott, pointed to me when I was a wee boy and said, “He’s a chip off the old block”. That’s how dad got the nickname of Block!
The solution – Block, stool and plastic bag cover
I can’t thank dad enough for his love, support and energy. I knew I’d be writing about this adventure but as a picture paints a thousand words, I’ve included a few below that capture this special speaking visit to Melbourne.
In the words of Borat “Great success!”
I’m looking forward to bring you the 4th and final part of Planes, Ubers, Wheelchairs and One Big Travel Bag. ‘Til then.
Frustration and a Golden Opportunity
A long road ahead
The surgeon advises against squatting or running for six months. I’m demoralised. Running is a salvation for me. The health benefits, the endorphins released, the sheer pleasure of being outdoors and immersed in nature is a necessary balm for my mind and soul. Reality bites when I ask if I can walk for 30 minutes at the end of the 10 week rehab. The answer is a firm ‘no’. I’m only allowed to walk for 10 minutes to start with. The physio warns it’s imperative to take things easy. “This is equivalent to a knee reconstruction. The danger period for re-tearing the meniscus is in the first 10 weeks.” I realise this is going to be a very slow and gradual process.
Frustration… even the simple things take forever
Before leaving hospital, I’m given a lesson on using crutches. Stairs are extremely challenging and I can’t carry anything. There are many adjustments to be made at home and because I live alone, my 85 year-old dad, Alan, moves in with me to provide 24 hour support.
Moving on crutches, ensuring I don’t put any weight on my left leg, is a struggle. Initially, I only move from bed to couch and back again. I dull the pain with painkillers and inject myself in the stomach each evening with a blood thinner. The simplest things I do for myself take an eternity but the hardest thing of all is showering.
The Danger Zone: the dreaded shower!
My left leg is in a full-length brace to keep my knee straight. I sleep with it on only taking it off to shower. I undo the brace, slip it off and pull a rubbish bag over my leg, protecting my knee and its bandage from the water by sealing it with tape at my thigh and ankle. Showering is dangerous because the chance of slipping on a wet floor is high. I have some close calls. Showering sitting down is easily fixed with a plastic chair. Even with the brace off though I can’t bend my left leg at all. I sit in the shower with my leg out the door and as water hits my thigh, it runs down my leg and all over the bathroom floor. Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of dear dad. He makes sure I don’t slip and I extricate myself from an embarrassing water soaked bathroom disaster.
I have a lot of couch time, very unusual for me. Time is so precious. I’ve learnt the hard way we only have one shot at life. I’m frustrated but I want to put this time to good use. I do something I’ve been putting off for a long time — I upgrade my phone from an ancient sluggish overused Samsung S5 to an S8+. It takes me about two days to get used to the new phone. I’ve installed apps, contacts and configured the settings to my liking. The phone works fine… for a week. Then one night on the couch, I’m watching TV and multitasking with the phone (I know in reality, multitasking is a fallacy…it’s actually paying inadequate attention to all the tasks at hand!!!). The phone is plugged in and charging. One of the apps is playing up. Easy. I reboot. Disaster. The OS is completely corrupted and fails to boot. The phone now has my full attention! A little Googling reveals I’m not the first S8 owner to experience this reboot fail. I restore the phone to factory settings so at least I have basic call functionality. I hop off to bed on my crutches and decide to dedicate tomorrow to setting up the phone to my liking, yet again! The joys of modern technology. At least I have a project and ample time to spend on it.
A phone call to lift the spirits
The next morning, I have a missed call and a voice message from ICMI Speaker Bureau consultant, Neil Baird-Watson. I’m now keener than ever to get my phone back on track. I plan to call Neil the next day, keeping to my ‘24-hour rule’ of getting back to people (I’ve learnt this from Alan Weiss, one of the world’s most renowned consultants). The following morning, before I have a chance to phone Neil back, he sends me a follow up email. Neil’s call, message and email, all in quick succession, make me think he’s pretty serious about what he’s proposing. I show the email to dad.
A golden opportunity
Neil thinks I’d be a great fit for an upcoming talk hosted by the Australian Psychology Society (APS) on how psychology has changed people’s lives. He usually presents two to four suitable speakers to his clients who then select from his short list. Apart from being a Senior Sergeant with the Queensland Police Service, I’m also a professional speaker. I’ve been building my motivational speaking business, TWICE SHOT, since 2015 when I was recognised by Professional Speakers Australia as the emerging speaker of the year and awarded the prestigious Kerrie Nairn Scholarship for Public Speaking.
Dad finishes reading Neil’s email. He looks up and says, “What lousy timing”. I wholeheartedly agree. Frustrated, I respond, “I have such a powerful story on this very subject. I could do this talk standing on my head but I’m marooned on this bloody couch!” Dad and I while away a few hours in my apartment, me doing my rehab exercises, dad making lunch. Then, out of the blue, dad says, “I’ve been thinking, what if I took you down to Melbourne?” I’m a little startled. I reply with a “What????”
Alan saves the day
Dad says, “I know I’m 85, but I’m in pretty good health and you were such a wonderful support to me after your mum passed last year, Mum would want me to support you now.”
In mum’s twilight years, she battled pulmonary fibrosis, scarred lung tissue that makes breathing increasingly difficult. She’d never smoked. Mum, or my nickname for her, “the best little girl in the world”, was eventually wheelchair bound and on oxygen 24/7. Dad lovingly took care of all of mum’s needs, preparing meals, showering, placing her in bed, taking her on drives and pushing her in a wheel chair so she could enjoy time with friends, picnics and the outdoors. I called into mum and dad’s every day because I never knew which would be the last. Before leaving my parents’ home on the evening of 15 August 2016, I gave mum a big hug and told her I loved her as she sat in her recliner chair next to dad. After 53 years of marriage to my father Alan, mum passed away on 16 August 2016 leaving a huge hole in our lives.
And so, despite dad’s age, I know he’s an experienced high carer! I’m inspired by the old English proverb, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” and my dad is one hellava Englishman!
Eileen Jean Green: 1 November 1934 – 16 August 2016
A mission to Melbourne
We put our heads together and work out the logistics. We’ll use Uber for vehicle transport. We’ll fly Qantas and request wheelchair support at each airport. Since we need to overnight and I can’t carry anything, we’ll share a bag. It all seems simple. I phone Neil and explain my circumstances. I tell him if I can address the audience on a stool, the surgeon will give me the go ahead. Neil sees no issue and puts my name forward to the client. On Friday 8 September he sends me an email: “Hi Daryl, great news ̶ lock it in!”
“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”
I tell dad. He has a great, big smile on his face and reminds me I was supposed to be in the Philippines about now. He then recites a favourite saying of his mother Ellen, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” He means if it wasn’t for the devastating knee injury, I would have been away and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be selected for the talk. I’m a big believer in misfortune having an upside. Every cloud has a silver lining. Then it dawns on me…there’s one major obstacle we haven’t considered…the danger zone…the dreaded shower!!! I look forward to telling you how it all unfolded in part 3. Stay tuned!
Best Laid Plans
Start of the 100 metres
The fateful ‘one hundred’
I’ve always loved running. As a kid, my best events were the one and two hundred metre sprints. On a sunny winter’s afternoon in July, I decide to go for a 30 minute run. At the end, I time myself sprinting a ‘one hundred’. I have the distance marked out on a stretch of road. I set my stop watch, crouch down, suck in three deep breaths. I click the timer. The next thing I know, I’m punching out of my stance like a rocket! ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR-FIVE strides. I’m gaining momentum and I’m gradually rising to my full height, pushing my chest out allowing my body to go as fast as I can. I love the sensation. Then suddenly without any warning I feel a ‘twanggggggggg’. My left knee snaps like a huge rubber band. There’s no pain but I know immediately this isn’t good and I pull up lame.
The following day I see my doctor. An MRI scan reveals a damaged meniscus. My doctor says, “Lucky it’s not your ACL [Anterior Cruciate Ligament], that’s a long rehab process”. While none of this is great, I’m aware it could be a lot worse. An appointment is made for me to see an orthopaedic surgeon that afternoon.
MRI of Daryl’s left knee which showed the surgeon the extent of the devastating injury
My father, Alan Green, drops by my apartment just before I’m due to head to the ortho. I update him on my knee. So we can spend some more time together, I suggest he accompanies me to the appointment. Dad sits in on the consultation. The surgeon asks me how I injured my knee and I tell him my sorry tale. He says, “You have a one percenter injury. You’ve torn your meniscus from the root. It’s very rare and very serious. It’s normally associated with the kind of trauma we see from a parachuting incident. We have an 80% chance of successfully repairing the meniscus, otherwise you face life long consequences such as not being able to run.” I’m absolutely flawed, as is dad. After the initial shock, I ask about my options should the surgery not be successful. He talks about breaking a leg bone and realigning it to move the pressure on the knee joint. I sleep uneasily that night.
Anatomy of the knee
Under the knife
On Tuesday 15 August 2017, I’m in hospital. Keyhole surgery is used to reattach my medial meniscus (the inside of the knee). The detached meniscus, which has coiled up at the back of my knee and feels like a sponge, is pulled forward to the front of the joint. The end of the meniscus, and the bone area it will be attached to, are scored or roughed up to assist them to knit together. Lastly, a screw is inserted through the meniscus into the bone to affix the root in place. Thankfully, the operation is deemed a success. Despite this, the recovery ahead challenges me more than I could ever have imagined. Yet, as so often happens in life, it also brings me an incredible opportunity. I’m looking forward to sharing this with you in the next instalment.
The operation is a success! Smiles all around from me, dad and great mate, Neil Robson
My mother and father were the glue that held me and my life together, whilst professionals—psychologists and psychiatrists—treated me for years during the worst stages of chronic PTSD.
I know from experience, the secondary causalities of PTSD are the sufferer’s loved ones – wife, partner, children, siblings, parents – the ones who see the effects of PTSD up close and personal. The depression, anger, anxiety, hyperarousal, dreams, flashbacks, withdrawal and massive personality changes.
One of my first memories of what I was going through affecting my parents, was in the first week after being released from hospital following the shooting.
I was having a nightmare and my father tried to wake me. As soon as he touched me I lashed out kicking at him repeatedly until I woke and realised where I was!
Love ones often feel helpless, are often overlooked by support services (although this is improving) and suffer in silence. For years I underwent intrusive operations to reconstruct my shattered mouth from that first bullet, with each procedure re-igniting the full fury of PTSD.
This is the damage the first bullet to my face inflicted…
As all loving parents know, what affects your children, affects you. Things became so bad in the early years after the shooting, my father suffered severe depression. I was being treated by an experienced psychiatrist who had children of his own. He had more than an inkling of what my parents were going through. When I shared my concerns about my father’s declining mental health, even though he was not paid for it, the psychiatrist volunteered to see and treat my father for 15 minutes after each session that I had with him. My dad started a course of anti-depressants, which combined with talking about his feelings and emotions, and the wise counsel of this generous psychiatrist, helped in time to relieve his depression. This enabled him to ‘keep going’ and along with mum continue to be a bulwark of support for me.Tony Dell is the only first-class cricketer to serve in the Vietnam war and said, ‘I saw things in Vietnam that the human brain is not meant to experience…’. Forty years after his war service, his experiences led to a diagnosis of PTSD. Not the type to receive his TPI pension and do nothing, he founded Stand Tall for PTS to help reduce the condition’s stigma, educate and encourage governments to do more. In early 2017 he asked me to participate in a music film clip about the condition we share in common. He also asked, ‘Do you know anyone else touched by PTS who would be willing to contribute?’ You don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to know who I turned to! 😊
Despite his waning years, my dad was once again there for me and agreed to participate in the music film clip. However this time, he was not there solely for me. Anyone who knows my dad, knows his gentle kind and empathic nature – if he can help someone out, he’s the first to show up! Alan participated to help raise awareness of PTSD and in his own small way, try to make the road for the condition’s suffers and their loved ones, a little bit easier than we have had to traverse together.
Hint: Dad appears between 3 and 4 minutes.
The ‘Stand Tall’ music film clip will give you a true glimpse of what it is like living with PTSD and help you understand and better support those affected by the condition.
Please watch the film clip’s scenes and listen carefully to Tony’s own words based on his personal experiences.
More than 15 million Australians are affected by trauma and it is estimated that between 5 and 10 percent of the population will suffer PTSD at some point in their life (Source: Phoenix Australia).
If you wish to…
- learn more
- receive help for suffers and supporters
- support research for effective treatments
Our mothers bring us into this world, feed us and nurture us. They are there when we are helpless and there when we are suffering, be us a child or an adult. And hopefully our mothers have an amazing partner by their side to help raise us. My 81-year-old mother, Eileen, has had by her side an amazing man, my 84-year-old father, Alan, for 53 years of marriage, and who is now also mum’s full-time carer.
Last Friday morning, one week ago, I was preparing to be awarded, along with Sergeant Chris Mulhall, Senior Constable Sharnelle Cole née Harris, and Sergeant Brett Price, a Group Bravery Citation, by his Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland.
All I wanted that morning was mum. I wanted her to be with me at the ceremony. This was far from a foregone conclusion. Would she be able to lift heaven and earth and be there?
I shared a simple story on Facebook about that morning and the above photograph.
The feedback from friends and family was touching. A primary school friend who I had not seen in person for decades read the post and burst into tears. She telephoned her mum and said, ‘You have to call Mrs Green and wish her well’. Her mother reached out and re-connected with my mum, many years past our time at Nundah Primary School.
I thought I’d share word for word, that simple story here, and remind everyone, how important our mothers are to us, and thank my mum for her unwavering support, care and unconditional love.
Mum was very ill the day before the Group Bravery Citation was being presented to me, Chris Mulhall, Sharnelle, and Brett Price, by the Governor His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey, on Friday 6 May 2016. Friday morning, I did not ring mum and dad, but was desperately hoping mum was going to be able to attend. Dressed in full uniform, I arrived at their home and parked in the street. As I rounded the corner of their driveway on foot, I saw their car was out of the garage, hmmm… a favourable sign. As more of the vehicle came into sight, I saw the passenger side door was open, I thought that’s positive. As I walked past the car into the backyard I heard mum’s voice in the kitchen. I felt this is very good. And when I opened the back door, I could see a sliver of blue in the kitchen. As I opened the door further, I realised it was mum, sat in the kitchen in her gorgeous blue dress. I was elated! Thunderbirds were go ? I was able to share this very important day with my two greatest supporters, mum and dad. And we have this beautiful photograph capturing the moment with the Governor. Love you mum and dad. I would not have made it to this day without your care, understanding and unconditional love. I’m a very lucky boy to have such amazing parents ☺
Original Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/daryl.green.5680/posts/1188219024545584?comment_id=1189082944459192