Discover Ferguson Lodge with Bruce

Bruce Bennedick, who has lived at Ferguson Lodge for over 40 years, shares his story.

In 1973, when Bruce Bennedick was 21, he was involved in a diving accident that left him with a severe spinal cord injury. After spending a few months in rehab, Bruce went home to live with his parents, who were then already in their 60s. ‘I felt like I was a burden on them at that stage of life’, Bruce explains.

He spent the next seven years living in aged care facilities. ‘There were a few other young people with spinal cord injury in the nursing home’, recalled Bruce. ‘The staff had a bit of empathy towards us, but it was still an aged care facility.’

When Ferguson Lodge opened in 1979, Bruce was one of the first to put his name on the list; and in 1980, Bruce was finally able to move in. ‘It was a Godsend to my family and me. Ferguson Lodge gave me a level of independence away from my family, and they were much more comfortable knowing that I had somewhere to live for the rest of my life.’

With the care provided at Ferguson Lodge, Bruce was able to carry on his life again. ‘I’ve always been able to come and go as I please and know that somebody was there to help me whenever I got home.’

When construction started on the new buildings Bruce, curious and determined, wondered over, camera at the ready. Day in and day out, Bruce roamed the property documenting this monumental change for Ferguson Lodge. Several of his images have been included throughout this article.

Bruce continues to live at Ferguson Lodge, in the new accommodation he so thoroughly captured. Watch Bruce’s story below to get to know this incredible resident and his remarkable story.

Introducing our 2021 Ambassador Program

2021 is a year for transformation for us at ParaQuad. As with our brand new newsletter, ParaQuad is moving towards being more accessible to ensure we're providing relevant and specific news to all of our members. We're working with ambassadors, who we believe, live and breathe the ParaQuad brand to aid us through this transformation. Over the next few months, we'll be doing Q&As, live videos, and interviews that will take you into the lives of our ambassadors and allow you to interact with these incredible people.

This month, we are highlighting the men in our program. In April, we look forward to profiling the women who have said yes to supporting our vision.

Without further ado, let's introduce our March lineup:

Joel Sardi

In 2014, Joel fell down a staircase and broke his C2 & C5 vertebrae. The fall caused cervical spinal cord damage and fractured his thoracic vertebrae and sternum, resulting in Joel becoming a C5 quadriplegic.

Before his injury, Joel was in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Today, he works with the ADF to support people leaving the army to find civilian work. He also speaks at events around Australia about his story and how he perseveres and overcomes obstacles he never thought he'd have to face.

2020 saw another change for Joel as he and his wife welcomed their first child: a beautiful baby girl. On top of it all, dedicated and ambitious, Joel's passion for awareness and accessibility has led him to begin a Psychology Science degree this year.

"When I was first injured, I spent years trying to adapt to life in a chair and learning how to live again. It was extremely difficult and very eye-opening. Losing my independence was life-shattering as I had taken it for granted my entire life. Since the accident, I have struggled with incontinence, my body lost its ability to regulate temperature, and I even lost the ability to cough! These challenges are a part of my every day now. They are my 'normal.' I'm really looking forward to working alongside ParaQuad as an ambassador so that I can educate many more people about spinal cord injury and what's possible on the other side. Just recently, my wife and I had a daughter. Despite my daily challenges, there's so much to live for and look forward to."

Sam Tait

Photo credit: Sport the library / Jeff Crow

In 2013, Sam had a motorcycle accident that severed his spinal cord, resulting in him becoming a paraplegic. Once he realised that life would never be the same, Sam adapted quickly to his new life, and he and his family set new goals to aid in his recovery.

From a family of skiers with a love of the snow, there were few surprises that Sam was most keen on hitting the slopes after his injury. Before long, Sam's goal was to compete in the 2018 Winter Paralympics and he spent the following years training day and night to get there, which he did!

His incredible drive has him set on a new goal: to be on the podium at the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing.

"I want to show everyone that living with a disability doesn't disable you. For me, my life is so full, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Luke Bailey

Luke, who has caudal regression syndrome and spina bifida, found his passion for wheelchair racing after being introduced to racing legend Kurt Fearnley. From the moment he sat in Kurt's racing chair, Luke hasn't stopped racing.

Wheelchair racing has taken Luke to competitions worldwide, and he is now proudly ranked no. 1 in Australia and no. 2 in the world. Through all his achievements, Luke has only ever had eyes for one: The 2021 Tokyo Paralympics.

Luke's love and admiration for his sport are awe-inspiring, and we are so excited to follow his journey to the Paralympics.

"I’m excited to educate people on SCI and share my story of racing. I’d like to inspire others and show people that you can do anything you want, regardless of if you use a wheelchair or not."

Think outside your wheelchair; take the plunge.

Lyndi Leggett founded the Scuba Gym in 2018 to enable lasting change for people with a disability or special needs. Last week, we sat down with Lyndi to ask her about her favourite moments working at The Scuba Gym and why she is so passionate about what she does.

Q: What sets Scuba apart? How does Scuba therapy compare to other therapy's available?

Well, for many clients, going to a regular gym is quite intimidating. So, having a place to step away from the noise, wandering eyes, and judgement can be quite liberating. It is often the world around our clients that defines them as 'disabled.' Underwater, our clients can stand, walk, lift dumbbells, or do push-ups without their chairs. Without gravity, they can make these movements and feel like their body is doing the work that they can't do on land. It's incredibly empowering.

Scuba therapy is quick to get you working out, and we believe wholeheartedly in everyone's ability to push themselves. So, when a client shakes their head and indicates that they can't do something – well, that's when we push back and insist they can – and they do.

For example, we’re seeing some incredible results with one of our most severe MS clients, one who is an incomplete quadriplegic due to her illness. While she only has minimal use of her left arm, it's a different story under the water. We have her doing push-ups and criss-crossing her hands up a stick. The other day she caught a ball instinctively. It was incredible to witness. How does a person who can barely move their arms instinctively catch a ball? That's magic!

Q: What can people expect when they walk through the Scuba Gym's doors?

Once a client decides to take the plunge, we want to know the courageous human being that's made their way to us and discuss their expectations and goals. We establish trust before we get them suited up to make sure everyone feels comfortable moving forward. Ensuring a client is comfortable is the most crucial task as some clients had their accidents in the water.

We monitor how much the client can do, and the workout evolves from there. Fun is an essential element of any session. You'll see the watermelon ball often in photos and videos; we have lots of fun with it. Just standing is huge for most clients – the freedom of being out of their wheelchair for the session is liberating. Remember, "in water, the soul finds freedom the body has forgotten."

Q: Your social media and website showcase a lot of your customers. Can you talk a little about the relationship you have with everyone who walks through your door?

Everyone who walks through the door has a different story and goals, so I make sure we get to know each other and trust each other.

We ensure our clients have fun, feel pushed, and feel exhilarated by seeing their legs moving in a way they used to. I see each person who comes to get our help as an inspiration to so many others as they are brave enough to trust in themselves and trust my team and I to help them.

Q: Are there any cases that have stood out to you over the years?

Absolutely – every person who takes the plunge has their own "wow" moment. We recently had a gentleman who is an incomplete quadriplegic and spends his days reclined in a motorised chair. When in the water, however, he can take his own steps. The first time this happened, we asked (in shock and amazement) why he doesn't use crutches and walk? He said no one could help him onto crutches, so he sits reclined, uncomfortably, all day, every day in his chair. It's mind-blowing that this man is in this situation – and it makes me wonder how many more people are in the same way. So we walk lots with him and are building up his strength again, so he may choose to use crutches once more.

We have another gentleman who also is in a similar position with a similar injury. We can stimulate his nerves in his legs so that he takes the steps by himself. This is huge for him and super exciting that his body reacts so profoundly to our work. The nervous system is so complex, and just because someone is labelled incomplete paraplegic or quadriplegic, it doesn't mean the nervous system isn't working in the limbs – we want to try and find the right triggers to get it working again.

What does Scuba Therapy hope to achieve?

We know 1 in 5 Australians have a disability, and we'd love to help them benefit from Scuba Therapy at the Scuba Gym. The best way to make this happen is to decide right now to take the plunge. We encourage people to be courageous and get out of their comfort zone. That's where life is.

I believe that with a little guidance from us, magic happens.

Get in touch with Lyndi:
042-038-0055 or, like us on Facebook and Instagram.

60 years of history

ParaQuad CEO, David Clarke, sat down to reflect on ParaQuad’s incredible 60-year history and what’s in-store for their bright future.

"Charities are born from adversity," wrote Dr. Stephen Judd (AM). They are not born as "start-ups" with a business plan backed by venture capital; they are born from the community, from people who see that something is wrong and want to do something about it. They don't worry at the start about how they will fund their mission or how they will get things done - they just start. Such was the case for ParaQuad that celebrates 60 years of service this year.

Sixty years ago, Dr John Grant AO OBE, consultant neurosurgeon at Royal North Shore Hospital identified that there wasn't sufficient help for those living with the effects of spinal injury to live well at home, and the specialised products and equipment many required were hard to get or not available. Dr Grant and others with a mutual interest got together and started the Paraplegic Association of NSW. These concerned citizens weren't politicians or "influencers" as we would say in today's parlance; they were mums and dads, brothers and sisters, or children of those affected by a spinal cord injury.

One thing that has remained true over time is that a spinal cord injury isn't confined to that individual. Entire families and networks of friends become involved in lending support to those affected.

Sixty years ago, paraplegia was something of a rarity. Because the effects were so all-consuming for those affected, support was drawn from all quarters. The entertainment industry stood out in organising fundraisers with concerts, "variety bashes" and auctions. Support also came from the racing industry and auto-clubs.

Gradually things began to change. Necessary products like urinary catheters, wound dressings and nutritional supplements were easier to buy. Wheelchairs were more accessible and their designs and functionality improved. Today, wheelchairs are tailored to an individual's height, weight and usage requirements.

In the past, the focus was to support people living with spinal cord injuries through their initial trauma - and survive. Today, that focus has shifted to making the environment more accessible and supportive for people to live a full and productive life after their spinal injury.

There is an excellent quote from an episode of Grand Designs UK where a retired soldier injured in the war in Afghanistan states "It is only my environment that makes me disabled. If my environment works for me, I don't have a disability anymore." While this statement can't be applied universally, it highlights two things; firstly, the importance of doing all we can to remove impediments to an individual's ability to function at their best. Secondly, every person's situation and needs are different - and so must be the solutions we help to deliver.

Understanding these unique needs has been a driving force for ParaQuad to continually improve our services and support throughout the community. Advancements in medical treatment and support have also meant that those living with effects to their upper limbs has become an increasing need, and in 1971 the organisation became the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of NSW.

Today, the estimated number of people in Australia living with the effects of a spinal cord injury sits at around 20,000 individuals across the country. People living with spinal cord injury live anywhere, from major city centres to the outback, from places where support is around the corner or hundreds of kilometres away. Yet, we need to ensure we provide support where and when it is required.

That's what ParaQuad NSW is doing today. We still deliver upon our founding principles. But today, we have 340 employees providing clinical services, in-home support, accommodation services and a vast range of products and equipment tailored to individual needs.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) came into play in 2013 and promises to be the most comprehensive and far-reaching support scheme for people living with a disability, at least in Australia and possibly the world. It is not without its problems, people can find it hard to navigate and we would like to see eligibility extended for those over the age of 65. However, for many, the NDIS has been a life-changer.

More recently, we can't look past the most life-changing event of our time, the first global pandemic in 100 years. With an organisation that is so hands-on in delivering services, we could not merely "work remotely" during Covid. Our care staff, clinicians, and warehouse employees had to remain on the frontline. Over the past 12 months, ParaQuad NSW has ensured our services were, and still are, being delivered in a way that protects both our clients and staff from infection. I am pleased to report that, through sound management, we have kept the disease at bay.

Looking forward, the path that brought ParaQuad from a small community-based initiative of a dedicated few to a great many, looks very bright. We continue to develop our core values to deliver a broader range of products and services across Australia, so we can provide care and value no matter what a person's needs may be.