Fishing from a wheelchair (Bulletproof: Sam)

* – So, I’ve pretty much been into fishing most of my life. I have my dad to thank for that one, because he was mad keen. – What have you been doing, Sam? Have you been helping Dad get the snapper filleted? – I was just on a boat from when I was a baby, really. (GIGGLES) Then, yeah, after my injury I sorta thought, ‘Oh yeah. Surely this can continue. Why not?’ For me, fishing, it’s about kinda just being out there. It teaches you patience, for one, and, you know, patience is a big part of life for me now.

The way you do things is gonna be different to how they were beforehand, but it’s what life is now. Captions by Jade Fernandes. Edited by James Brown. Captions were made with the support of NZ On Air. www.able.co.nz Copyright Able 2021 (GENTLE GUITAR MUSIC) Hey, I’m Sam. I’m a C5 tetraplegic, and I’m 24 years old. The beach is awesome, eh? Been real privileged to grow up within close proximity to the beach. It’s a good place to sorta unwind and relax, you know? There’s nothing really like having a quiet evening down the beach, fishing, whether that’s with a couple of mates or on your own. There’s sort of something real peaceful about just looking at the water. It’s a good place to be, eh? A good place to be. After my injury,

I was real focused on getting back on the beach. That was one of my goals from the start. In terms of fishing, I sorta thought, ‘Oh yeah. ‘Just chuck a rod in, and make a little rod holder for it.’ Got the beach wheelchair now, I can get on the beach, so why don’t I see if I can try fishing off the beach? The drone was kind of a thing, and give that a nudge. It worked pretty well. Yeah, sweet, grab out those baits. I reckon we chuck on some mullet and a bit of bonito, so maybe some of that. – This? – No, that white stuff. Chuck two of those on the bottom hook. With drone fishing, you have a drone, you have a reel and a rod. Typically you probably set it up as an electric reel, cos you’re going and dropping baits quite far offshore. Basically, you set up hooks and a trace and a sinker on to your main line like you sorta do with any type of fishing, really.

That fresh mullet’s probably better, actually. Might even be worth chucking another hook on, just with another piece of mullet on. You have a clip system on the drone, and that hooks into the line. The tension releases it, or you can have, like, an automatic system where you press a button that drops it. But, essentially you drop it out using it one of these methods. And you’re sort of cruising on the beach and just waiting. And you just crank it in when you get a bite and get a fish, and Bob’s your uncle. (DRONE WHIRRS) (RELAXED MUSIC) For me, fishing — it’s about kinda just being out there. It’s just relaxing. (SPLASH!) – Morning. –

Morning. Good sleep? – Oh yeah, not the best, eh? Been pretty busy, lately. – Aw. – Can you grab out those medications? My injury’s a complete injury, so pretty much means that I’ve got minimal to zero function below my level of injury. Basically, what that means is, from C5 kind of up, everything’s sort of intact. I’ve got good strength in my biceps and shoulder muscles. I’ve got a wee bit of wrist function. Everything is good to that C5 level, and then below that, it’s predominantly paralysed. Can you start with this hand? Everything sort of, like, relaxes overnight, and in the morning I just do a few stretches. It’s good to sorta get a bit of movement back in the joints and muscles again, just to stretch everything out for the day. I guess, like, the stretching helps, at least sort of ease and relax the legs. First thing in the morning, as soon as, like, a bit of movement or whatever it just, like, triggers the spasm. You stretch, like, all the muscles right out, and it sort of reduces the spasm, at least sort of temporarily.

But yeah, it’s always a constant thing. Especially, like, being in a wheelchair for most of the day. It’s one of those things, eh? Like, I’m not too bad. There are some positives to spasms as well, you know? It keeps a bit of tone in your muscles and helps the blood flow around a bit better and stuff. So it’s not all, like, negative, but yeah, they are pretty annoying a lot of the time. So, basically, I’ve got 24-7 care. My care team helps get me ready for the day. Getting out of bed in the morning, getting showered, dressed, going to the toilet. – Sweet. And what would you like for breakfast? – Oh, I’ll just have cereal — just have bran. You know, they’re awesome. They pretty much become a part of your family, because you see them every day. – Should be able to use this. Where I’m at in terms of my independence with my injury is still not driving yet, so that’s still a goal of mine in the future. But to get to anywhere,

I need someone to drive me, so care team helps with that. I still can’t do a lot fully independently. I need help with things, and that’s reality of it now. It does take a lot of time to come to terms with that, and I still kind of am coming to terms with it, to be honest. But you still tack away at it. Like, I’m six years on from my injury now, but it’s definitely still a work in progress. – Nice. – Just need to come back a little bit, if we can. – (GRUNTS SOFTLY) – I’ll just get you to sit me up, first. – Yep. So, basically, I had my injury at the end of 2014. Just had Christmas. Came home for New Year’s. I’d just graduated high school as well, so I was sort of, like, looking forward to a bit of a New Year’s with my mates before a lot of us headed off to uni. (TRANQUIL MUSIC) We had our skateboards and skated to a reserve that we used to go, sort of hang out, chill. Quite often, there was a tree we’d climb and sort of sit out there and watch the sunset. Climbed up to the top, and the boys were sort of following me.

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I was pretty confident that it’d be sweet, you know, that if anything happened then the branches beneath me would sort of catch me. But I was sort of on the top side where there wasn’t any branches beneath it. I remember trying to put my feet out to the branch in front of me, and then my foot slipped. That caused me to spin out of the tree. (BROODING, REFLECTIVE MUSIC) I was just trying to grab and reach for anything that I could. But obviously I was just reaching for thin air, essentially. I just remember landing back on to my back and just, like, a real loud crunch. My whole body just was full of pins and needles, and I couldn’t move. And I just knew something was seriously wrong. I told the boys, like, you know, ‘Ring the… Ring the ambulance.’ And then, sort of after that, it kinda starts to get a bit hazy. – They mentioned that the first 24 hours is quite critical, that he ideally get some surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. He went into, you know, needing help to breathe. – He was on a ventilator for, like, a whole month in ICU. – We were following the doctors, and the X-rays were being explained to us. Yeah, it was definitely a fairly daunting time for us. I think the acceptance, for a parent, can be quite challenging. – I guess it was, yeah, pretty big for everyone who was sorta close to me. It affects more than just yourself. It’s sort of the people that are close to you, around you, and your support networks. (GENTLE PIANO MUSIC) Coming back, I sorta realised it’s a bit sorta bigger than I remember. Looking up at it now, especially from sitting down in a wheelchair, and going, ‘Oh, that’s pretty big.

‘ You know? But I guess it’s just where my injury happened. It’s not something to be upset about. I had a lot of good memories here as well. But that day changed everything. I knew I wasn’t gonna get up and be like, ‘Oh yeah. Sweet. Bounce back from this one.’ I knew, like, ‘Nah, this is probably gonna change my life.’ * – Yeah, sweet, That’ll do. That’ll be sweet. – (REEL WHIRRS) Back when I first had my injury, it was, like, really scary because there was all these unknowns. But for me it was actually real hard about probably a year or two after my injury, where everything sorta plateaued a bit. You kinda realise, ‘Oh. Not really getting any progression any more.’ And that was… that was real tough. (GENTLE GUITAR MUSIC) I definitely feel like I had to grow up pretty quickly. All your mates are off doing stupid shit, and you kinda realise you just can’t be living like that any more. You gotta be getting on with things and be mature, and that’s kinda the only way forward. That was a weird time, because I’d been at school for 13 years, everyone’s getting amped for uni, everyone’s getting amped to begin careers in the workforce, or do a gap year, whatever it is, and then you’re kinda just getting your level of independence. But as a result of one mistake, one thing going wrong, you’re just not on that same path as you thought you were gonna be, and that’s pretty upsetting. Especially initially, when all you wanna do is just get on with it like everyone else. You almost feel like you’re back to square one again. You’re like, ‘Oh.’ So, I was planning to head off to university. I was sort of looking at going into a Bachelor of Science. When my injury happened, I was forced to pull out of these courses and all these things which I’d kind of prepared in anticipation for. A couple of years after my injury, I tried a couple of different papers here and there through sorta correspondence. Nothing really jumped out at me, but I sorta continued down that science path. I did all good with my grades and stuff, but I just didn’t really feel quite right any more. I was sorta tossing up whether I was gonna go back to uni or not, and kinda realised that I wanted to have a slight change of degree. So I switched to Massey University, and I switched to a Bachelor of Resource and Environmental Planning degree. So that’s what I’ve been doing for about the last year, year and a half now. Sorta had to start from square one, cos most of my papers that I had done in that last few years didn’t credit over. But hey, it’s all good, you know? Give it a crack. (STIRRING MUSIC) It’s tough. You know, I was driving, I was doing all these things. I was essentially almost ready to go live my own life. And something like this happens. Boom. Like, it just changes. And then you’re sort of stuck in this weird limbo state where everyone else you know is still doing those exact same things. You think, ‘Shit I should be… I should be there too.’ Driving is gonna be a big one for me. Getting to a point where I can get myself from A to B on my own and not having to rely on someone would be huge. Basically, me and one of my carers, Pete, we sort of decided to come up with a bit of a steering wheel strengthening device, because it’s one of the things they identified which was a bit weak, in terms of looking at driving options. We thought, well, we might as well just actually try and replicate it as best we can. So we thought, oh yeah, we’ll just get a steering wheel, and make a little table to wheel up to, and chuck some weights on. And then as the weights lift up, the nylon pulls it up on to the cord, and then you just release it and go back the opposite way. That seems to work pretty well in terms of trying to replicate that movement for steering. You hit this kind of plateau. You kind of realise that you can get growth in other areas. It’s not all just about physically being better all the time. You can grow mentally as well. And you kinda go through phases where you kinda realise, ‘Oh, no, I can probably push hard physically, and maybe this is possible,’ which I’d kinda written off that it wasn’t gonna happen. (MACHINE SQUEAKS) Life isn’t exactly the same as it was beforehand. But then you’ve also gotta realise it never is for anybody. Life’s always changing, but for me, it was just, life changed in an instant. You’ve kinda just gotta try and get to some level of acceptance at some point, because you can’t get anything done otherwise, really. Yeah. – You want me to do it? – No. I’ll do it! – Pull it in. Come on. – In terms of fishing, it’s something that I’ve just continued on with from when I was a kid. – Sam do it! – CHUCKLES: Daddy do it? – Sam do it. Early on, I just wanted to get out back on the boat, and just get back in the salt air and wanted to be a part of what I used to do. – DAD IN VIDEO: Come on, Sam. I’m still on the beach, fishing, and on the boat, fishing, like I was pre-injury. Obviously, physically, I can’t do quite as much, but you kinda look at different ways. The enjoyment’s still there, so why not continue on? You might just have to pull my brake off and just wheel me in. – We’re fortunate this boat that we’ve had since 1996 is actually well suited and got quite a nice, big cockpit for him to be able to get out there and do some fishing. – (ROD WHIRRS) – Bait’s gone, eh? – You reckon? – Oh, maybe not. (BEEP!) – I guess fishing is a patience game. You know, we find if we move too often, we don’t catch too many fish. So it’s about waiting it out, really. – Wait, or…? – Have to wait for a bit. – We’ve got a good set today. We’ve got good conditions. Yeah, there’s hope yet. (REEL WHIRRS) – Got a bit of a set-up here with the electric reel and rod. Get it casted it out for me, and got a little bar set up here, and flick it out, and drop it as I need. Yeah, it works pretty good, eh? At the moment, we’re sorta just trying to catch most probably snapper. The style of fishing we’re doing is called straylining. Casting back, pumping a berley trail, and hoping you bring, sort of, the fish to you. You’re hoping that the fish come off the sand, off the reef and follow you along— – We’re getting a bite, Sam. (BOTH LAUGH) Good fun. Here’s another one. The right one’s got a— (CHUCKLES) – Yeah, Dad has probably taken it the hardest. Don’t know if he’d want me saying that, but… Yeah. – What do you think, Sam? – Another kahawai, eh? – You reckon? – Yeah. – ‘It’s been a big adjustment for me. ‘He was this young adult doing all these things. ‘And his life changing so dramatically, it’s a big thing for me to take.’ But, um, yeah. We gain strength by his strength. – (ELECTRIC REEL WHIRRS) – Oh, there it is. A kahawai. ‘He takes everything in his stride. His chill factor is there. ‘Think it’s more often he says, “Dad, don’t worry about it.” ‘I’m more of a worrier.’ – There we go. We got a fish. – Whoa-oh! Jesus! – ‘He’s my fishing mate. ‘He’s always had an interest. ‘It seems like he’s releasing from all the hassles of land.’ – Good, eh? – How’s that? – A keeper, eh? – That’s good stuff. That’s us, eh? – Something about it, which, I guess, brings about a bit of peace to your life. You’re just cruisin’. And if you catch something for dinner, that’s a bloody bonus. You’re always glad you went. You’re tired — you sleep well. Everything’s bloody awesome. * (CAREFREE MUSIC) – You’ve got the wheelchair rugby tournament tomorrow, eh? – Yeah. Yeah, nah. – Should be good, eh? Gotta keep those South Islanders in line, eh? – Yeah, man. Honestly. – Mate, do you want to just give me a hand up this uh…? – OK. – I guess it was, yeah, pretty big for everyone who was close to me. This affects more than just yourself. It’s sort of the people that are close to you, around you, and your support networks. Zach — we were real good mates before my injury. He was with me when I had my injury. He’s one of my, still, best mates now. – People were just driving past in their cars and they were like… – (LAUGHS) ‘Our group— Whenever times are getting tough, our group comes together. ‘And we consider Milo, our dog, essentially the heart of it.’ – Do you want a plate? – Oh, nah. I’ll be all right, bro. – You sure? – Yeah, yeah. Sweet. Yeah, there was definitely a few keen mates who were, like, you’d ask them, and they’d always sorta go the extra mile. It was awesome to sort of have that support network. If you’re in your early stages of your injury, try and build a good support network. Get out there and look for ways that you can build those support networks, because it’s bloody tough early on. And it still is hard, but it does get easier, and a lot of that is the people you surround yourself with. So you want to make sure you’re around these people that are pushing you in the right direction. Cheers guys, anyway. Cheers for coming out. – You too, eh. Cheers. Thanks for having us, eh. – He just dug into it. He had no choice to. And he always said that if you were in my position, you’d be doing the same thing, cos you either live, or you don’t. – OK, we’re videoing, guys. – ‘It’s how he’s always viewed the whole thing. Simple as that.’ – Yeah, boy! – Hoo! – (ALL LAUGH) – ‘So, I decided do a bit of a trip to Europe in a campervan for three months.’ – ‘Europe was a yarn. ‘It was crazy.’ – Come on, boys. – ‘He rings me up, “Bro, flights are booked.” ‘We had a rough plan, but we’re just gonna go for it.’ And that was Sam. That was 100% Sam. – Sorta thought, ‘Nah, bugger it.’ It was awesome, eh. Bloody awesome.’ – First night in the camper. My care team and a few mates, they were just like, ‘Yeah, we’ll sort you out, and you’ll be sweet.’ – Bit bigger than Papamoa Hills isn’t it? – I went through Switzerland and Denmark, and then sorta went across through the Netherlands, Belgium, through a bit of UK, looped back around, did a bit of a skedaddle back down south, around the southern coast of France and ended up in Spain, in Barcelona. You got these cobblestone streets. Stairs are probably one of the biggest major pain in the arses. But there’s ways of overcoming it and you navigate them. You make it work. You’ve just gotta think about it a different way and see how you end up, you know? What’s really the worst that can happen? It sorta opened up my eyes to think, ‘Shit, you can do a bit if you’ve got a good support network around you.’ You can do some pretty awesome things despite your injury. – Sam! – Yeah. One, two, three. – With my level of injury, there’s kinda not a lot of sports you can play — at least competitively, anyway. Wheelchair rugby was kind of a thing that I got introduced to pretty early on, actually. – Yeah, yeah. I’ll sort it out, eh. – Cool. I was always a pretty athletic and sporty person, so I always did wanna kinda get back into some level of sport somehow. I sorta gave it a go, you know, a year to two years after my injury, and didn’t really enjoy it, to tell you the truth. The speed thing was a big thing. I came to this situation where I was the slowest on the court. I could get faster, but my level of injury, I was always gonna be the slowest, no matter what. And that just kinda really pissed me off, cos before my injury, I was always kind of one of the fastest players in my team and could run rings around most people. I didn’t wanna be that guy who was the slowest. I… I hated that. It was real hard getting through that mental battle. Kinda got the pip with it a bit. Start of last year, my mate said, ‘Oh, come on man, give it another crack.’ So I came along to a few practices and… – You’re doing a really good job. Oh, nah, I’m actually getting along a lot better, cos I had all this practice of pushing the chair. Especially when I was overseas, I was doing big kilometres, and I’d sort of gotten stronger. Then I sorta started learning more of the tactics behind things. And if I positioned myself correctly, then I could be a valuable part of the team, rather than just thinking, ‘Oh, I’m crap and I can’t do anything. I’m too slow.’ – Go! Go! Go! Go, Sam! Go, Scotty. Go get him, eh? (WHISTLE BLOWS) When Sam’s on the court, his role is really strategic. He’s got to be really smart on court, cos he doesn’t have the level of function that some of those other crazy players have. He doesn’t say much, but he’s really dry, and he’s very wise. And he listens, and he just kinda stealths up on people. That’s his strength right now, is his smarts. And all that’s gonna happen as time goes on, he’s just gonna get stronger and stronger. So we’re quite excited about what the future holds for Sam. – Let’s go, Red! – Let’s go, Sam! Nice! Nice position, bud. – You learn patience. You have to. At the end of the day — you get too impatient, you just don’t achieve anything. Once I sort of got into it a bit more and played a couple of tournaments and realised, ‘Damn, this is actually a challenge and it’s… it’s competitive.’ And it’s these things that I’ve missed from not having any team sport for five years. Probably a real good thing to be involved with, I think. (DRONE BUZZES) (WAVES CRASH) – Might be an empty line, yeah? – I think it’s still on. It might have fallen off. – Is it a snapper? ‘I guess you can learn, yeah, a bit from fishing.’ Yeah, better just throw that one back, I think. ‘Teaches you that, shit, you might have a bad day and not catch anything…’ Yeah, bro. Chuck it back. Little one. ‘…but there’s always another day.’ You can’t predict the future, so you’ve just gotta to take each day as it comes. Something might go wrong, but generally it’s not the end of the world. You can always give it a crack another time and continue on. I suppose that spills over into my life, you know? (CALM, REFLECTIVE MUSIC) Captions by Jade Fernandes. Edited by James Brown. Captions were made with the support of NZ On Air. www.able.co.nz Copyright Able 2021

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