During a recent visit to Royal Rehab, Ryde on the 5 April 2019 by Northern Sydney Wellbeing Officers Ian Dodd’s and Ken Vessey, they had the pleasure in the Spinal Unit to meet Ashley (30 years old), a quadriplegic and his Aunt Sally Dawking. Back on the 3 January 2019, Ashley whilst enjoying a sunny beach day with his finance Maddi Maginnis , he suffered a tragic accident when driving off the Shoal Bay Pier, as he had done countless times before but this time he broke his neck and damaged his spinal cord and thanks to the kindness, quick thinking of four total strangers, they were able to bring Ashley to shore from where he was airlifted to the Royal North Shore Public Hospital for extensive emergency surgery.
Ashley and Maddi had big plans for 2019 including their recent engagement party, a new house and their planned wedding in November 2019. Ashley is determined and aims to be standing at the altar to watch Maddi walk down the aisle. Whilst Ashley was still in the early days of his rehabilitation, but during the visit we were impressed with the determination and spirit he expressed as he spoke of his will to overcome his injuries and assist in the preparations for the “big day” when Maddi and he would marry and have a long life together.
Prior to our visit via his Aunt Sally, we learnt that Ashley was a fanatical NRL Cronulla-Sharks team supporter and through the generosity of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks RL Club, we could acquire tickets for Maddi and him plus two Men of League Members to attend the Cronulla-Sharks game against the Sea Eagles on the 19 May 2019 at Shark Park. When we told Ashley this news he was totally surprised and overjoyed and said” 19 May cannot come quick enough”.
So, on the 19 May 2019, Northern Sydney Wellbeing Officers Norm Pounder and Alistair Turnbull picked Ashley and Maddi up at Royal Rehab and travelled to Shark Park with a very excited Ashley. Unfortunately, the Sharks did not win the match but that did not dent the enthusiasm displayed by Ashley, when watching his heroes on the field. He also met players Chad Townsend, Kyle Flanagan, ex player Brett Kimberley plus a group of Cronulla-Sharks Ladies NRL players.
Maddi remarked that she had not seen Ashley this happy for some time as he left no doubts that he had really enjoyed the outing and was most thankful to Norm and Alistair for making it possible. As a bonus whilst exciting the carpark the group had the pleasure to meet up with Ben Ross ex Cronulla-Sharks, South Sydney, Penrith player and former employee of the Men of League Foundation.
When Ashley moves back to Newcastle, the Men of League through their Newcastle Committee will stay in contact with him and continue to assess any avenues of assistance that can be considered. Norm remarked that all visits to the Royal Rehab are moving experiences but this one was most remarkable and fulfilling.
by Ken Vessey
Wellbeing Coordinator Northern Sydney Committee