Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Nothing Can Stop A Strong Will And Determination

17 Jun 2011Rob Cook was a typical strapping, young farmer, living in the remote town of Suplejack Downs, which is located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, in Australia's Northern Territory, when his whole world came crashing down. He and his family grew up on their family's cattle station, which is known as the most isolated cattle farm in Australia.

Rob met his wife Sarah in school, and although they spent many years apart in the early days, they had a blossoming long distance romance that began in 1998. They married in 2004 and decided to begin their own family, with their first son Braxton, born in March 2006 and their second son Lawson, born in March 2008.

Rob's entire life was changed on the fateful day of September 30th 2008. It began as any other typical day in the life of a cattle farmer, which included mustering cattle from a helicopter. Rob used his own smaller version, called a gyrocopter and two other cattlemen/friends used larger scale helicopters. Rob later met them back at the station, and he decided to go up with one of the pilots, Zebb, to point out some mustering cut-off points.

They were coming in to land and it was just after 10 in the morning, when the helicopter experienced engine failure, and fell from the sky at 200 feet. Zebb did his best to aim the chopper into the only clear landing that was in sight. Coming in for a crash landing, one of the blades clipped a tree, spinning the helicopter upside down, where it landed on the passenger side.

Both men had no visible signs of injury and were both still strapped in with their seat belts, but Rob knew there was something seriously wrong when he couldn't feel any part of his body... After hours of waiting, Rob was eventually flown to Adelaide Royal Hospital in South Australia, with his wife Sarah, and youngest son Lawson, who was only 6 months of age at the time.

During the accident, Robs head was slammed against the roof of the helicopter, dislocating his C4 vertebrae, leaving him paralysed from the neck down. After a considerable amount of time in hospital, becoming stabilized, he then spent months in rehab. He had his family by his side the whole time, with his dad, mum, brothers and their families even moving the 2000 kilometres down from their cattle station to be with Robb, Sarah and their kids for around eight months. It just shows what a tight knit and loving family they have.

Rob was urged by doctors to move close to a main hospital, to be able to receive the best care available, but he and Sarah wanted to raise their boys the same way they were, on their family's farm.

The cattle from their farm usually gets trucked up and exported live to Indonesia, but with the recent news of inhumane treatment of our cattle, live Australian exports have been halted for the time being. Although disgusted by the reports of animal cruelty, the Cook family is concerned that if livestock is no longer going to be permitted to Indonesia, it would shut down their farm.

But Rob is determined to assist his family on their farm, he is learning to use a voice activated computer, which he hopes will be able to aid him in controlling different aspects of the upkeep of the family farm.

Rob's just completed the first component of his Nuffield Scholarship. The scholarship involves travelling to different parts of the globe to observe other country's farming practices, which Rob and Sarah plan to do together. The hope is that the Nuffield Scholar will return their new found knowledge, and apply it to Australia's own farming culture.

The next adventure of Rob and Sarah's life will involve travelling with their two young boys in his motorised wheelchair, along the dirt roads of the outback, from Suplejack Downs, to Alice Springs, which is about 730 kilometres. They will also be accompanied by a modified horse-float.

Rob already has some sponsors for his amazing journey, but he is hoping that the trip will raise some much needed funds to complete the next part of his Nuffield Scholarship, which will involve travelling overseas. Rob's trek began on the 23rd May 2011 and is expected to be finished around the 16th June 2011. He hopes to prove to his sponsors that he is determined and also wants to motivate others with spinal cord injuries, and let them see that having a serious injury doesn't have to mean the end of your life.

What an inspirational man and family! I wish Rob and his family the best of luck. If you'd like to view a story about Rob, which aired on Australian television recently, click here: http - or if you would like to learn more about his quest or donate to his cause, you can visit:

Rob and his beautiful family

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