Story by Dan Nathan
Benton Munro is a young father of three, a husband, and an irrigation engineer living in Mildura. He’s been living with a C7 spinal cord injury since November 2021, after a head on dirt bike collision.
“I came over a crest, missed the first rider, and slammed into the second one,” shares Benton.
“Yeah, it was a good one.”
At the time, Benton’s partner Holly was pregnant with their third child.
“I found it really hard coming out of rehab,” Benton reflects.
“You spend five months in rehab, where you’re the patient, and you start out not being able to do anything, so everyone does everything for you. By the time I came back home, I felt like I’d forgotten how to be a father.
“I felt like I came home a bit selfish, just worried about me.
“First, my wife lives through the accident, then she’s looking after two kids while she’s pregnant and I’m away for however many months – I finally get home, the baby comes a month later, and I’m just worried about myself.
“I had to relearn how to be a good parent; how to be a good husband. It was a lot of work, and a huge adjustment. I definitely botched it early on.”
These days, Benton feels like he’s finding the balance between his responsibilities as a parent, a husband, and as a man who’s still barely 18 months into life without the use of his legs.
Late last year, Benton and the family went on AQA’s Skills For Independence: Family Connections course. Developed and led by people with lived experience, the three day residential course equips people living with complex physical disabilities with the skills, knowledge and confidence to further their independence and wellbeing. The course actively involves family members and significant others, both to better equip them as they support their loved one, but also to offer them the opportunity to connect and share with family members in similar situations.
“We definitely noticed that there’s a lot of support for people with the injury, but not so much for partners of. We were hoping the course might bridge that gap a little – which it definitely did. There was another lady that Holly met, and they were able to talk about all that sort of stuff,” says Benton.
“Plus, our kids got to see more people in wheelchairs, which was cool,” shares Benton.
“Now, they always point out other people in wheelchairs to me when we’re out and about.”
While he didn’t learn anything drastically new, Benton says it was a great chance to catch up with other people with spinal cord injuries, ask questions, and share experiences. Another benefit was developing an awareness of the kinds of inclusive recreational activities that are still possible to share with family and friends.
“We practised some wheelchair and transfer skills – with the family members as spotters – but what I really loved was the mountain biking and kayaking. It was so awesome to just chuck the kids on your lap and go for a ride with them. I’ve got a mountain handcycle ordered, which should be coming in the next few weeks. Getting the kayak is next.”
Benton is clear that his journey of growing as a father and a husband, and learning to live with his injury, is far from over. But, he’s proud of where he and his family have made it to, and where they’re going.
Family and Friends Support Group
AQA runs a regular support group for family and friends of people living with complex physical disability. If you could use some support, or know someone who might, get in touch with us for more details.
AQA offers Peer Mentoring and Coaching, pairing you with someone who’s faced similar challenges – including parenting with a disability. Get in touch.
p: 03 9489 0777
- April 5, 2023