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From fighting injury to fighting fires

When former IT technician Matthew Ashby had a serious motor bike accident, his life was turned upside down. But, thanks to the power of positive thinking, he overcame significant obstacles to realise his childhood dream of becoming a firefighter.

Matthew, 23, sustained several fractures to his spine, had air and blood in his chest cavity, a fractured shoulder blade, as well as flashbacks and insomnia after the accident in December 2012, which occurred when he was travelling to work.

During his month long stay in Royal Brisbane and Woman's Hospital, he underwent numerous operations and rehabilitation to treat the injuries, before returning to his home town of Bundaberg.

He returned to his job as an IT consultant on partial hours in May, and then full hours in June of this year, seven months after his accident.

As if this was not enough of an achievement under the circumstances, on 23 July Matthew realised his childhood dreams, and was accepted into the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service. Initially he was concerned that his injuries and likelihood of lifelong pain were constantly at the back of his mind as he went through the interview stages. When queried about the restrictions due to his injuries, he would say, “well I can't do this or that, but look, I can do this, this and this”. Notwithstanding his declaration of restrictions, he was successful in his application.

We asked Matthew to share his experience. He discusses his rehabilitation, his support from family and friends, and his new career.

WorkCover Queensland: How did you stay so motivated and positive during your rehabilitation?

Matthew: It was not easy to stay motivated. I had really bad days when I did not even want to get out of bed to go and shower. There were times when I thought I thought I had depression but I was able to pull through. The biggest things that kept me motivated was my girlfriend, family, health team and of course my dream job. The next thing that kept me motivated is, once I did get into the gym and start doing my rehab and started losing weight that I had put on, it gave me more confidence. Seeing the results from this as well as my rehab that I was undertaking gave me more motivation to keep going.

WorkCover: What ongoing rehabilitation did you have?

Matthew: My ongoing rehab has been a continues gym program five days a week, a remedial massage fortnightly and physiotherapy fortnightly on the weeks that I don't have a massage.

WorkCover: When will you complete your fire training?

Matthew: I have completed some of my fundamental training but all of my training will not be completed until next year. Dates are still unsure as I'm waiting on the official numbers to come through to complete the specialty causes like urban search and rescue, swift water rescue, Road Crash Rescues, HAZMAT and Vertical Rescue.

WorkCover: What particularly about the fire brigade made you want to join?

Matthew: As a little kid it was something that I wanted to do. When I was in kindy that is what I would always say that I wanted to do. As an adult it is about helping people in the time of need, mateship in the job and a job that requires peak level of fitness and health, so that makes you keep your body healthy and fit.

Thanks to Matthew for sharing his story. We wish him all the best in his new career as a firefighter.

For more information on injury management and rehabilitation, please visit our website, or call us on 1300 362 128.