Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Community supports John after accident

Tatura man John Betts adjusting to life as tetraplegic following shearing accident.

ESTELLE GRIEPINK July 2, 2014 3:44am

Tatura man John Betts with his partner Patrice Bergerson and dog Tat. Mr Betts became a tetraplegic following an accident last year.

Every little bit helps when you are living with a disability.

It is something Tatura’s John Betts knows all too well.

Mr Betts, 47, has just received $7000 from Youngcare, an organisation that helps people with high care needs live at home instead of in aged care.

The father-of-three became a tetraplegic after he was injured in outback NSW, where he was working as a sheep shearer.

One of the animals kicked him under the left eye and the force broke Mr Betts neck.

Six days later, his body went into spinal shock.

He collapsed, suddenly paralysed from the neck down.

‘‘You can break the bones in your neck and walk around for days, months, years even — until it actually hits your spinal cord and your body goes into spinal shock,’’ Mr Betts’ partner Patrice Bergerson said.

‘‘It took about a month before one of John’s fingers moved slightly.’’

After six months of rehabilitation in Melbourne, Mr Betts slowly gained some movement in his arms and fingers.

But returning home to Tatura was a challenge in itself.

Occupational therapists said the family needed to move into a bigger house that was adequately heated and could be fitted with ramps and rails.

‘‘We didn’t even see the house before we moved into it because we were away for six months, we saw it through emails,’’ Mr Betts said.


‘‘The (Tatura) community moved things from our old house to this one, so when we came here, we felt like we were visiting ourselves,’’ Ms Bergerson said.

‘‘Tatura’s been great with the support they’ve given us.’’

Adjusting to Mr Betts’ disability has been a learning curve for the whole family.

It can take him three hours to get ready in the morning and the family needs to check if places have wheelchair access before heading out.


‘‘We can’t really get in the car and just go places anymore,’’ Ms Bergerson said.

‘‘Until you’re in the situation, you don’t know how hard it is.’’

Nevertheless, Mr Betts said he was determined to live as normal a life as possible despite his wheelchair.

On weekends, he still heads out to watch his children Bailey, 9, Keagan, 13, and Cody, 15, play football.

He’s also training his puppy Tat to be a sheepdog.

‘‘John’s trained heaps of sheepdogs before, but this will be the first one he’s trained from a wheelchair,’’ Ms Bergerson said.

‘‘We named her Tat after the wonderful Tatura community who have helped us so much.’’


Mr Betts has also decided to head back to work.

‘‘Before I hurt myself I was coming back as a manager at a sheep farm in Murchison,’’ he said.

‘‘Now, I’m going to come back as a caretaker.’’

‘‘Knowing John’s situation, the boss has just been unbelievable, we can’t thank him enough,’’ Ms Bergerson said. ‘‘It’s given John something else to focus on.’’

Mr Betts and Ms Bergerson thanked Youngcare for the grant and said they were planning to use the money to upgrade their bathroom.

‘‘The cost of having someone with a disability is just huge — John’s wheelchair cost $15000 and a little portable ramp costs $600,’’ Ms Bergerson said.

‘‘Without these organisations that provide this funding, we would be lost.’’


The Tatura community has set up a National Australia Bank account for people who would like to help the Betts family during this difficult time. The name of the account is the Betts Family Fundraising Committee Account and the BSB is 083876 and the account number is 839276360.

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