Symon Still - Injury Prevention Manager
Where there's a will there's a way!
||Symon with May Bowden, General manager of the Paraplegic Benefit Fund.
Nineteen years ago, one careless moment changed Symon Still from a keen triathlete to a partial quadriplegic.
Now, practical support from EDGE is helping him achieve his goal to stay in the workforce as long as he can, while he tries to stop others from suffering spinal cord injuries. In 1994, the then 24 year old Physical Education teacher was riding his bike to work, when he collided with a car.
"I was inattentive, so was he, but he was in a four wheel drive," says Symon - the result was devastating.
"I sustained high level spinal cord injury, I'm classified as a partial quadriplegic, so I can use my arms but they're sort of numb."
His ability to walk was gone, but Symon's will to work is still the same. He adapted, going on to teach mathematics and later moving to the Paraplegic Benefit Fund as its Injury Prevention Manager. Symon is now able to combine his professional and life experience.
"My role here is to find, recruit, train and mentor new presenters to share their story to audiences," he tells INSIDE EDGE.
Symon's team members have all suffered spinal cord injuries.
They tell their stories to children, teenagers, employers and workers in sectors as varied as mining, marine and construction.
May Bowden, General Manager of the Paraplegic Benefit Fund, says the education programmes that Symon oversees are having a positive effect.
"Many individuals who have been to our presentations have commented that PBF's Injury Prevention presentation has made them re-think their own safety behaviours and the impact it could have on family and friends."
Symon tells INSIDE EDGE, "We're there to make people think about their own decisions. A lot of people come up afterwards and say I've made some unwise choices in my life up until now, but as of today I'm changing."
While he loves his job, spreading that message can be physically exhausting for Symon. "It's the in and out of the car and pushing, that'll wear out my shoulders. I don't want to lose the ability to transfer (from the car to a wheelchair), cause if I lose my ability to transfer, I lose my independence."
"There are many people who work for PBF who have enormous passion." says May Bowden, "Their bodies let them down."
"I think with EDGE's help we can find opportunities - not only in terms of finding employment, but also making it easier for individuals to concentrate on being passionate and loyal employees."
As Symon's role at PBF has evolved, so have the physical demands of his job. EDGE Occupational Therapist Sarah DiTommaso identified that the continual lifting of a heavy wheelchair was putting Symon's body under unnecessary strain so, eight years ago, she successfully applied to Job Access for funds to purchase a lighter chair.
A year later, a managerial promotion meant more desk work for Symon and the need for adjustment in the backrest support of his chair. An increase in computer work meant voice-activated software was necessary to prevent repetitive strain on Symon's arms. Through EDGE, Job Access funded a new backrest and the software to enable Symon to write on a computer by speaking rather than typing. These seemingly small changes have made a huge difference to Symon, but he would never have been able to afford them on his own. EDGE managed to source it all - it didn't cost Symon or his employer a cent.
At 44 "wear and tear" is taking its toll on Symon's body. So EDGE recently helped source an electric wheelchair and the necessary vehicle modifications to transport it.
This means that the father of two can continue to participate in the workforce, helping to provide the education to stop spinal injuries like his. He hopes his story will help. "Others will see this and think right, equipment can make all the difference!"
"With an open mind, looking at people for their individual needs, people can work and therefore enjoy their life!" he says.