By Warren Heggarty
ABOVE: Donna (left) and Mozzy (right) have alternated between the roles of “carer” and “cared-for.” PHOTO BY WARREN HEGGARTY
Mozzy from Peak Hill in Central Western NSW, was elected Chair of the Flourish Australia Community Advisory Council (CAC), which is the representative voice for all of the people who access Flourish Australia’s services. ‘I want to contribute and make a difference for people,’ says Mozzy. In wanting to make a difference for his peers Mozzy has experienced a positive effect on his own recovery journey.
‘I just want to emphasise how much being a part of the CAC has improved my sense of self worth’ says Mozzy. ‘I’d like to see other people take this sort of opportunity when it arises. Give it a go!’
‘I was still very reserved when a peer worker approached me about standing for the CAC. I resisted at first. Then I thought about it. Then I decided I’ll do it…but only if I’m going to make a difference.’
‘The CAC has given me so much opportunity to say and do things. It shows I CAN make a difference. It shows that I CAN help.’
‘Society is still very judgemental which creates barriers towards people with disabilities but Flourish Australia does not fall short in supporting us.’
Before his involvement with Flourish Australia, Mozzy told Panorama he was quite isolated. He had a shed where he might happily spend 18 hours a day ‘coming up with plans that didn’t eventuate.’
‘Flourish Australia has brought me back out of my shell. I’m no longer sitting in the back corner. If I go to Maccas or something I’m no longer worried who sees me.’
At nearby Parkes, Mozzy has been attending group activities such as cooking, art, walking and Wednesday outings. Luckily he is able to drive. ‘I know there are some other people in Peak Hill who would benefit the same as me but they can’t access Flourish Australia in Parkes. People miss out due to a lack of transport.’
Mozzy’s wife Donna agrees. To get to Parkes from Peak Hill (population 1,200), there is a school bus that leaves first thing in the morning. It only costs $2.50 for a pensioner, but because there is only one service you end up in Parkes for the whole of the day to attend a two hour group session. Then there is a community bus which caters for medical visits or shopping excursions.
‘I don’t like malls or shopping that much’ admits Mozzy. ‘Buying on line is better. I don’t think I’d be happy sitting in Parkes all day!’
Donna thinks they should open up the railway to passengers again.
The lack of transport, and the cost of what little there is available, is a big issue for country people. Mozzy makes a 100km round trip between his home and Flourish Australia at Parkes. In addition, he has had to travel 150km to Dubbo to undergo hydrotherapy for ankylosing spondylitis (a serious, debilitating form of arthritis that affects the spine) which he has lived with since 1995.
Medical or disability?
After three years of travel to Parkes, and four years to Dubbo, the cost mounts up, especially for a pensioner. However, when Mozzy applied for assistance through NDIS, it was considered that his situation was of a medical nature, rather than disability and so he has not qualified for a package.
‘My back gets worse when I don’t do hydrotherapy’ says Mozzy. ‘The cost of $140 per fortnight on a pension is quite steep. When you think about it, going to hydrotherapy and attending Flourish Australia groups actually keeps me out of hospital. In a way I’m actually saving the taxpayer money so I’m not sure that rationing NDIS support is the best thing to do.’
‘When the NDIS first came in’ says Mozzy, ‘it scared so many people. They said to themselves, well if I don’t get the NDIS then Flourish Australia won’t be there for me.’
Readers should remember that Flourish Australia is willing and able to help people with planning and preparation to apply for NDIS packages. You won’t have to do it alone!
The Family and Carer’s role
Mozzy and Donna have been married since 1994 and they have two children. Previously, Mozzy ran a business involved in building maintenance and landscaping.
‘I had to give that away when my condition deteriorated. Ankylosing spondylitis doesn’t get better. It is very painful and sometimes I am not able to do very much, even with pain killers. 15 years ago, I raced cars for a couple of seasons.’
‘It was a doctor that encouraged that’ recalls Donna. ‘If you stop doing things, you’ll lose it.’
‘You have to keep doing whatever you can’ says Mozzy.
In that situation of declining physical health, it is not surprising that Mozzy experienced anxiety, depression, and related problems.
‘Depression got me the worst. Being physically unable to do things, to do things that I was able to do before…at one stage, I found myself doing things that were actually making things worse.
The doctor had not fully communicated things like how the medication worked and so on. Because of that misunderstanding, I ended up doing the opposite of what I needed! Flourish Australia has helped me to find better ways of dealing with my problems.’
Donna is also Mozzy’s carer.
‘I’m lucky to have a supporting family.’ He says. ‘I used to play soccer and footy and cricket as a kid and I’ll still play soccer, but my knee needs replacing. Only I’m too young for the operation!’
Donna has had challenges of her own. In 2002 she was involved in a freak accident where the rim of a sprint car wheel blew up and hit her in the face. She had severe head injuries as well as brain injury which has required extensive surgery.
‘So even though according to Centrelink Donna is the carer,’ says Mozzy, ‘I do things for her as well, when she’s in hospital, but we’re both each other’s carers.’
‘Physical pain is one thing,’ says Donna, ‘but I find that the other types of pain, verbal pain if you want to call it that, hurts me more.’
While recovering from the accident, Donna developed osteomyelitis in her forehead which is where the bone becomes catastrophically infected. She has had many different plates inserted all over her face, and has had ongoing problems with infections from that. The plates have had to be removed to control the infections.’
‘Hopefully next year I’ll get a new forehead’ says Donna. She had originally been booked in for the surgery in May 2018 but it had to be cancelled. One consequence of her accident has been that it has drawn other people’s attention to safety when performing maintenance on racing cars.
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