Former Merrigum footballer Jack Anderson is back in Echuca after becoming a quadriplegic and being hospitalised in Melbourne since 2011.ZACH HOPE February 21, 2013 4:50am
It has taken nearly 19 months of rehabilitation dotted with medical setbacks, frustration, elation and more than a few moments of despair, but Jack Anderson is finally back home in Echuca.
He returned from the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre at the end of last month, Trish Bishop, his partner of about six years, tailing the ambulance at a tow rope’s distance in case the driver dared turn around.
There had already been too many false starts to take any chances, she explains.
Trish has made the journey to and from the Talbot too many times to remember since a horrific football injury in July 2011 left Jack, 55, paralysed from the neck down.
People would tell her to stay home more; that Jack was okay and being looked after, but that did not sit well.
‘‘I had to be there,’’ she says.
‘‘The stress is greater not being there.’’
That journey home was the last, and as they sit in Jack’s new long-term home at Glanville Village, the relief is evident.
‘‘Just getting home again, to see them (family and friends) on regular basis. It is relief,’’ Jack says.
‘‘It’s a relief knowing that Trish doesn’t have to travel anymore.’’
Staff had decorated the room with Carlton coloured balloons, a Carlton flag and a note: ‘‘Hi Jack, welcome to Glanville, we are thrilled to have you join our family.’’
Leaving the Talbot was a triumph, but it also meant saying goodbye to those who had treated him, comforted him, worn the brunt of his frustrations and who had ultimately become family.
He says the doctors wore it, the psychologists wore it and the nurses wore it, but would reply with simple answers and a smile.
‘‘I’ll give them that, they knew what they were on about,’’ he says.
‘‘When I left, the nurses were in tears, the unit manager was in tears. Me being the elder statesman and the oldest inmate, it was very emotional. No two ways about it, there were a lot of tears that day.’’
Jack moves well on his wheelchair, purchased for $17,000 from fundraising efforts. Asked if he’s tested its top speed, he grins: ‘‘Oh yeah.’’
Next on the wishlist is a special van that the pair hopes can transport Jack around town and to the occasional Merrigum football game.
They say none of the equipment would have been possible if not for the tireless efforts of Merrigum Football Club and the many others who have taken on his cause and offered financial and moral support.
‘‘All the phone calls, all the well wishes, all the generous donations. I’d just like to publicly thank everyone,’’ he says.
He took his first ‘‘stroll’’ down Ogilvie Ave since the incident soon after he returned.
The surrounds were familiar — the houses, trees, the landscape — but it was another world.
The man who last travelled that footpath was strong, tall and tough as nails. He was a handyman and fit as a fiddle.
Today’s Jack is still tough, probably tougher than he ever was as a 600-game footballer, but the physical specimen is not.
For all the relief of getting home, there are certain realities that Jack is still coming to terms with.
‘‘My world and everyone’s world has been turned upside down,’’ he says.
‘‘It puts a lot of things in perspective. It makes your eyes wide.
‘‘(But) you’ve got to be strong. If it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger.’’
There is not a day that passes he does not think about the accident.
Jack received what was a reportedly innocuous bump on the half-back flank at Merrigum Recreation Reserve during Merrigum reserves’ round 14 clash against Lancaster on July 16, 2011.
He was airlifted to hospital and the game was abandoned.
No-one knows exactly how he sustained such serious spinal injuries.
‘‘It does overwhelm me; it haunts me,’’ he says.
‘‘I don’t know what happened, all these 101 possibilities. It will never leave me, it’s just one of those scenarios.
‘‘It’s hard to grasp and accept, but I’ve got to.’’
Jack’s body spasms midway through the Riverine Herald’s visit. His legs twitch and his arms shake violently.
Trish calmly lays one hand on his arm and another on his stomach until the movement eases.
She has been his constant companion, his rock, his occasional verbal punching bag; and he, on occasions, has been hers.
Jack says she is the real hero. It the one time in the interview he has to compose himself.
‘‘She could have pretty easily packed her bags, but true to her character she stuck it out,’’ he says.
‘‘I am grateful for that.’’
She replies: ‘‘It wasn’t hard. He’s the special one. He’s the one going through it.’’
She recites the words on a plaque she bought for Jack.
‘‘To love someone deeply gives you courage; to be loved deeply gives you strength.’’
She says to Jack: ‘‘It’s what we’ve done isn’t it.’’
Water has been returned to Kinnairds and Black wetlands to help with their revitalisation after bushfire damaged them in February.
More than 2200 people have signed up to show their support for a campaign to have the green route chosen for the new Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge.
Members of Murchison Book Club are hosting a literary lunch with Vivien Achia, author of Marrying Italian — When Love is Not Enough.
Matches were split up over Good Friday and Easter Saturday throughout the region.
Painter Ben Winspear and Scott Wileman will create new works as the public look on during the at Rochester Art Exhibition.
Kyabram Bombers have the chance to beat Rochester under light for the first time this Friday evening.
Lions star recruit had a tough introduction to the GVFL.
Tocumwal's Don Elgin is aiming to compete at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland
Eighty residents at a forum determined the Heathcote Community Plan was on track but need some fine tuning.
Cobram skate park hosts skateboarding and music for youth week.
Senior state minister Adrian Piccoli reaquainted himself with Deniliquin yesterday, leaving Deniliquin Counil hopeful it has an ally in him.
With his blue eyes and snow-coloured coat, Nanneella horse Sinatra has looks worthy of a fairytale.
Fourteen-year-old Benalla girl Jaimee Linke will launch her debut novel next month.
Discover unbelievable local deals from local businesses every week in the Goulburn and Murray Valley area with Leapon.com.au!
Search properties for sale or rent across North Central Victoria and Southern NSW. Visit your local website for local homes....
Search for published and unpublished photos from McPherson Media Group newspapers and magazines. All our photos are available to purchase.
Place an advertisement in any one of McPherson Media Group's local newspapers.