Hi, my name is Adam Mate, and next April I will be 40 years old, that might seem like a reasonably insignificant statement but for Me it has been a challenge. Life is full of challenges, each of us face challenges in our lives everyday, it is how we respond to these challenges that makes a difference. Each response can provide us with a sense of achievement or failure – to Me the achievement of being able to do up a button on my shirt might be as fulfilling as James Packer making another one million dollars is to him – who knows ?? We have no prior warning of our next challenging situation and we certainly have no guarantee of the outcome, all we can do is to face the challenge with a positive approach and give it our best effort.
My biggest challenge occurred when I was 11 years old – I suffered a severe stroke. From being the grade 6 popular sport playing blue eyed blonde “hero” to a comatose brain damaged quadriplegic with a less than 50 per.cent chance of survival, all within twenty hours. The prognosis for a future fulfilling life was not good. After ten days in a coma is when My new life of challenges began.-------- With no memory, no speech and no movement in my arms or legs, it was a new beginning – with speech therapy (no Rebecca Judd at that time) – physiotherapy to learn to stand and walk – occupational therapy to retrain memory and all sorts of other testing for vision, hearing, reaction, stimulation etc. Challenges like drinking a glass of water without spilling or dribbling or getting a spoon to my mouth became major achievements. Prior to My stroke, from the age of two I had snow skied with my family (parents and two younger brothers) and during My rehab. when I was first able to stand (before I could walk) I challenged my physiotherapist to a ski race down “Bourke Street” at Mount Buller --- 5 months later we had that race (which I won) and the “Medical Profession” were and still are amazed that I can snow ski without any impediment or disability ! The brain and the human body can do some amazing things – as a result of my stroke I suffer from “dystonia”, a neurological movement disorder which causes muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily. At this point in time this condition is incurable, although I have tried every known treatment --- including deep brain stimulation surgery (where they implant a brain pacemaker to send electrical impulses to the muscles). The ongoing challenge for medical research is to find cures for this and other conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s etc.
The other big challenge we stroke survivors face is depression – the challenge over depression is possibly more difficult than the physical challenge – the constant pain and frustration of having a reduced capability is always present – but then there is the society inflicted pain and frustration. The teasing and abuse, the lack of patience while you are trying to do or say something, the push and shove and speed of the public all contribute towards people with disabilities suffering from depression. This is our big challenge – we must constantly be satisfied with our own achievements and maintain our effort to convince people that a person with a disability has the same rights as anyone else. I have just came back from two weeks skiing at Mount Hotham, skiing with my 8 year old son Brayden (no wife, she divorced me after 8 years of marriage when Brayden was 2 – another challenge!) where I spend time with the disable and adaptive skiers, and try to promote disability awareness. My present challenge is trying to educate the responsible serving of alcohol employees and the venue security employees who regularly refuse service or entry to people with a disability because they ASSUME they are intoxicated. Another challenge is to persuade Councils to provide adequate disable car parking spaces and improve the training of their parking inspectors knowledge for their dealings with people with a disability. However, the single most important challenge for everyone is to recognise that people with a disability need to be given the same opportunities as every one else – they need employment.
The most positive message I can give to people is to have regular medical check ups, be aware of all the warning signals of a possible stroke and seek the earliest possible medical attention. Face all challenges one by one, step by step – regard any achievement as a win and don’t give in to depression. All sounds easy, but is a huge CHALLENGE !!
Best of luck,