Community wellness, community compassion, creating compassionate communities is how I view these floating platforms.
All Aboard Adventures was borne from compassion, for the many who need it, all of us I would like to say, more today than ever before in our history.
My name is Glen, I’m just another AAA team member, I have numerous abilities that have been damaged a little, and I disagree with the term that most people use to describe someone who is a bit or a lot broken. I spent a few years in the military that left me with many injuries that impact my life daily. However, for the most part I could still function, be employed, travel and enjoy my life and that of my family.
Working all over the world and only stopped a few times from injury from my previous days thinking I was indestructible. Returning from my Senior Health and Safety FIFO role after 3 weeks in a remote mining site I was introduced to neuropathic nerve pain. I was walking off the plane when I was suddenly aware of the most intense pain in my left foot (a previous operation site), I had to stop and take my boot off as quick as I could. In my pain I could only think how an ant could be in my boot since early morning and decide to bite me repeatedly after about 10 hours since I first put them on.
Boot off, no ant and the pain wasn’t stopping. I was frozen, I didn’t know what to do, couldn’t work out what was happening, why? WTF? It could be my damaged spine, the neuromas from a failed foot operation in 2000 or from previous fractures to my ankles. I didn’t care why, it just had to stop. It did, than it started and stopped and still does 5 and a half years later.
After 12 months of this type of torture, the long awaited operation to fix it, 80% chance the third foot surgeon confidently sold me on. I had some military sculptures made using my Veterans Incapacity payments and was going to try to sell them to raise money for veteran suicide awareness and my own military connections. I had started walking with a goal to complete the gold coast marathon and raise money for my military connections and highlight veteran mental health and suicide.
February 2016 the last failed operation from a surgeon who was more confident than skilful, he made it worse, no marathon for me, was the least of our worrries it would turn out. Little did I know when it started that this foot pain would remove me from the workforce, remove me from my planned life path, remove me from the closeness I had with my family and friends and removed me from me, enjoying life in general, in anyway was so very very hard.
Everything you do in life, either by yourself or with someone else, was interrupted by this intense, burning, electrified searing pain. The disruption to my peripheral nervous system affected my central nervous system, impairing my cognitive function as well, impacting my speech, decision making, reading, comprehending and writing ability. I used to read everything I could and would re-write management plans for large corporations from the knowledge in my head.
Realising I had to find my own answers gave me the drive to find an answer again, diet change, exercise, meditation and mindfulness. Herbal medications, herbal smothies, whole food plant based foods definitely helped reduce the attacks and gave me confidence to smile once in a while.
Dealing with one of lifes obstacles in 2019, preparing for an endoscopic and colonoscopic procedure I received 3 missed calls and 3 long messages left on my mobile phone. I used to have over a 1000 contacts now I had less than 10, isolated, and never recharged my phone as that $30 helped my youngest son, 5 years old, do soccer at $17 every Monday.
Inner alarm went off in my head, someone needed me. I recharged and at the start of the 1st message I thought it was a prank and I wasted $30, than I recognised the voice and what he was saying and intending to do. It was an old boss from the military I hadn’t heard of or much thought of since 2000, he was manic, suicidal and screaming into the phone, message after message.
The day after my procedures I flew to Sydney and the veteran psychiatric hospital that he was now in. Within 2 weeks a young man who served in the same branch of the defence force took his own life after a long struggle with mental illness. Two weeks after that another young man from the same branch of the defence force took his life as well. The Chair of the Prime Ministers Council on Veterans Mental Health, a member of this same branch of the defence force, would have been in shock also.
Another veteran I once knew was in the process of trying to help stem the flow of mental health amongst the veteran community by providing a yacht to conduct wellness tours and empower through skilling and certifying in the arts of seamanship.
Amazing, great, I was going to use the little bit of equity in our house and do the same thing, two boats could double the amount of people we could assist. I arranged to meet him on the Yacht, I pulled up in my own little zodiac wellness craft, which had been my own way out of the black hole of depression, pulled myself up onto his yacht and my damaged spine clicked and the spine pain started, it was in that moment that I realised not every body could benefit.
After a week of floating around in my little inflatable wondering how I could help, I found the solution. It was easy, I would buy a wheelchair boat and run my own show, not just for veterans but for as many people as I could reach as possible.
Not so easy, the wheelchair boats didn’t exist and I was on incapacity supports from Veterans Affairs so who would lend me the money anyway.
Than I remembered a boat I seen parked ‘on’ the beach locally where we used to always take the kids. It was a unique shaped pontoon boat that may just be able to take some further modifications I had in mind.
The more I researched the more determined I became, realising how much of what we do comes down to one word, ACCESS! If your legs don’t work that well or at all, than the beach is a no go, restaurants, shops, clubs, pubs anywhere and everywhere that you once went without a thought of being able to get into, down to or on to, changes. You cant or feel as if you will cause a hassle if you do.
I was ashamed to be honest, ashamed that it never occurred to me before, ashamed I never helped before! Ashamed of hiding away in my own self pity for many years when I could have been making some type of difference!
I spoke with Dave, the master boat builder with 38 years ship building experience, he had a positive attitude and was open to my design specifics.
I withdrew $10,000 of our $13,000 dwindled savings for a deposit on boat one, drove up to meet him and sign the contract. A week later I had put the deposit down for boat 2.
AccessCraft 10.0 was born, with the intention to be able to get every single one of us out on the water and utilise all of that which it could bring. It is a fantastic concept with compassionate communities our end goal. However, I still find it very hard to feel any joy just yet, as the catalyst for these simple floating platforms is suffering and death, which is no joy at all, wouldn’t you agree.
All Aboard Adventures it is named, providing wellness for everyone, promising and delivering 100 days use of each of our boats, for free, to charitable organisations and causes. 40 locations identified throughout Australia and New Zealand that will benefit our communities nationally.
I also found a way to do that marathon.
COVID has certainly slowed us up, slow, as opposed to stopped.