By RENEE BRACK
When I look at the logo for SpinalCure Australia and see that person leaping out of a wheelchair, it reminds me of a friend who now spends most of his life getting around in one.
He told me about The Dream.
In the dream, he would feel his legs again and stand up. Then he would walk. And run!
The joy he felt would come crashing down when he’d wake up and see the wheelchair next to his bed.
I wanted to put him in Dr Who’s Tardis and fast forward him into the future where he could have his spine repaired and continue his life as a playboy, nightclub owner and motorcycle racer.
So when I was invited to MC the SpinalCure Charity Oscars Lunch last year, I said yes. During the event, I had a new awareness of the gift of a healthy spine. I could walk up to the microphone, move around the room to hug friends and easily lift a glass to my lips for a sip of champagne.
Spinal cord injury changes lives suddenly. It can happen to anyone, any time, with another Australian suffering a spinal cord injury every day. The degree of injury varies greatly. Simple tasks become difficult or impossible. People lose control of their muscles, their sense of touch, sensations of pleasure and pain and sometimes the ability to breathe.
The annual cost of spinal cord injury to the Australian economy is estimated to be $4 billion a year. The personal cost to people with these injuries, and the lives of their loved ones, is immeasurable.
At my first SpinalCure Oscars Lunch, I met Joanna Knott – Co-founder and Chair of SpinalCure Australia. She was once the Director of a top London PR agency, then in 1988 moved to Australia to pursue an MBA and her sporting passion – skiing. At Thredbo, she broke her neck and severely damaged her spine.
When Joanna founded SpinalCure, many believed a cure was an impossible dream. That cure is now accepted as inevitable. It is just a question of sufficient funding for the research and a matter of time.
At the same event last year, I also met the CEO of SpinalCure Australia – the irrepressible Duncan Wallace.
Duncan was raised in the UK then moved to Papua New Guinea where he managed a coffee plantation. Then in 1984 late one night, a drunk driver crashed into his jeep. The vehicle rolled and Duncan landed on his neck. Two days later he was flown to Sydney’s RNSH spinal unit as a C 4/5 quadriplegic. He spent a year in the spinal unit.
After his accident, Duncan turned to IT and started a business setting up computers for other people with disabilities. Duncan first met Joanna when she was in hospital a few years after he got out. It was through this meeting that he became involved in SpinalCure by designing the logo and later developing the website. Now they work tirelessly towards the cure that is now on the horizon thanks to developments in areas such as stem cell research.
Love him or hate him, Mel Gibson predicted the actor who played Superman best, Christopher Reeve, would walk again. Sadly, Christopher passed away before that happened but Mel is right in this respect – people with spinal injuries will regain mobility and there will be cures for the myriad of medical issues that come along with a damaged spinal cord.
I am very happy to be hosting the SpinalCure Charity Oscars Lunch again this year. Every small effort, every single dollar, moves us closer to a cure and those magical, moving moments when people who have The Dream will see it come true and get up out of their wheelchairs.
The SpinalCure Charity Oscars Lunch will be held Monday 3rd March 2014 at the Ivy Ballroom, Sydney. Hosted by Renee Brack, the event will raise much-needed funds for research to permanently end paralysis caused by spinal cord injury, with a series of auctions and raffles to take place on the day as the Oscars is telecast live. To be a part of this great medical milestone secure your tickets now through www.spinalcure.org.au/oscars.