Michael Ingram’s short walk has been a long time coming.
For the first time in almost two decades, the central Queensland cattleman walked into the Beef Australia cattle ring witnessed by a crowd of hundreds this morning.
“I’m feeling quite on top of the moon,” an emotional Mr Ingram said immediately after his walk.
“I can’t believe I am here and I can’t believe I am on my feet.”
Eighteen years ago, Mr Ingram fell off his horse while chasing a bull and damaged his brain so badly it paralysed the right half of his body.
And in March, he set himself the goal to walk at Beef 2018, Australia’s largest beef expo being held in Rockhampton this week.
Only eight months ago, Mr Ingram was unable to walk unassisted.
It has taken him countless hours of work in the pool and the gym with the help of local gym owner and coach, Glenn Hansen, to get to this point.
“I had trouble sleeping last night, but it’s good, a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Mr Ingram said of Wednesday morning’s walk.
Flanked by Mr Hansen as he walked into the ring and watched on by his son Blake and carers Vicki and Graham Bell, he made his way towards well-known ring announcer Angus Lane.
“It was quite emotional and something I couldn’t do eight months ago,” Mr Ingram said.
Next goal set
He has now set his sights on walking into the National Droughtmaster Bull Sale in September and eventually, to show his cattle at the next Beef Australia expo in 2021.
Mr Hansen said it was satisfying to see someone set a really outlandish goal and then make a plan to achieve it.
“He’s walked the best I think he’s ever walked since we started the whole thing today, so that’s really good,” Mr Hansen said.
As for Mr Ingram’s next goal, he said he was not sure but said they would give it a go.
“We weren’t sure we could do this, and we did it,” he said.
Michael Ingram showing cattle in central Queensland before an accident in 1999 changed his life. (Supplied: Michael Ingram)
It’s a far cry from that time immediately after Mr Ingram’s accident when he would like on his back, unable to move, and question his will to live.
“Why has someone made me do this? What have I done to someone?” Mr Ingram said he kept asking himself.
“I had a priest come in and [he] said ‘you want to be thankful because you haven’t died’, but sometimes I wish I had died, but I’m glad I didn’t, as it turned out.”
Lack of services for regional and rural communities
Until meeting Mr Hansen at the local gym after a recommendation from his physiotherapist, Mr Ingram didn’t have much medical or rehabilitation input into his care because he lived near Alpha, a five-hour drive west of Rockhampton.
“I used to come back from Alpha to Tambo for six weeks and then go to Brisbane for a three-week stint,” Mr Ingram said.
He was too far away to get permanent, regular help but five years ago, he moved to a cattle property at Duaringa, a two-hour drive from the city, and this has opened up access.
Michael Ingram travels about 250km twice a week to get to his rehab appointments in a bigger town. (ABC Capricornia: Christopher Davies)
Mr Hansen said it was “fairly normal” for people living in more remote areas to go for years without adequate rehabilitation.
“It’s easy for a capital city; you’ve got everyone around you but in a regional, and especially a rural area where he lives, it’s a two-hour trip from the nearest bigger city like Rockhampton,” Mr Hansen said.
“He just wasn’t getting the attention he needed.
“When we go out west, we find people like that all the time that can’t get enough… and they make do.”
Horse falls are common
Mr Hansen said falls from horses were a common cause of injury among farmers and those working on the land.
“You hear that the chopper brought someone in to hospital this morning and you just wonder what happens to them,” Mr Hansen said.
“All of the spinal rehab is done in Brisbane and they are transferred back to Rockhampton where they do have a rehab unit but after you leave hospital in the public system, it’s hard to follow people up.
“And I understand that. They are a long way out of town.”
Mr Ingram makes the four-hour round trip to Rockhampton twice a week for his rehabilitation where the team works on his balance and on preventing falls.
There has been a lot of focus on teaching him how to catch himself before he falls, and to stand up and keep going.
“We simulate the fact that he may be a bit brave in the paddock and he’s decided not to use any assistance and he has to get back to the car,” Mr Hansen said.
“And he’s got to do it otherwise he’s going to sleep the night in the paddock.”