When Cristian Gozalez developed a sore throat in September 2016, little did he know he’d actually contracted a deadly bacterial superbug. Just a few short weeks later, it would leave him fighting for his life.
Within a fortnight, the carpenter from Macquarie Fields in Sydney’s southwest was travelling on a train into the CBD when he suddenly lost the use of his arms and legs.
“There’s no doubt about it, I thought I was dying,” says Cristian, 40.
“I was frantic, desperate. I was with a friend who first called for an ambulance and then helped me call my mum to say goodbye to her.”
It was in hospital that doctors discovered Cristian had contracted the MRSA bug and broke the news that he was unlikely to regain the use of his limbs again.
Cristian moved into the spinal cord unit in the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, where he stayed for ten months.
“I shared a room with three others and I watched as those patients came and went. Everyone else seemed to improve and have hope of moving out of hospital, but I didn’t. I became frustrated and depressed. I wondered if I’d ever be able to move into my own home. It became a sort of pipe dream,” admits Cristian.
Cristian’s progress was slow. Although he regained some feeling in both hands and his right leg, the use of those limbs was still limited. He didn’t regain use of his left leg and was confined to a wheelchair.
In May 2017 Cristian received his NDIS plan which included funding for a support worker. He turned to Uniting for help and support coordinator Elyse Quintal stepped into his life.
Elyse helped Cristian apply for more funding for special equipment and liaised with the hospital for opportunities that would lead to a more independent life for Cristian.
“The social workers at the hospital gave me information on residencies and I arranged to take Cristian for tours,” explains Elyse.
“It was the first time in his recovery that Cristian was being given a choice of where or how he received support. I think that moment was a game-changer for him. He started to have hope about living an independent life again.”
Cristian was impressed by supported accommodation Ferguson Lodge in Lidcombe, which contained a gym. The former gym enthusiast and boxer would have a chance to take up exercise again – something many of us take for granted.
“It was wonderful when I moved. I got my privacy back, my freedom. I started going to the gym twice a week; once with a personal trainer and once by myself. I can’t begin to tell you how great it feels to have a touch of normality back in my life. It’s amazing,” says Cristian.
Cristian is looking forward to the next step in the process – living in his own home again.
Elyse says the transformation of her client has been amazing, both physically and mentally.
“When I first met him I could see he was aching to get on with his journey. I simply helped him to do it. As soon as I got him out into the community, he was raring to get on with things,” she says.
If you ask Cristian about Elyse, he smiles broadly and shakes his head as if his gratitude is too great to put into words.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without her,” he explains simply. “I’d still be in that hospital bed feeling sorry for myself.”
At Uniting, we see every person as unique and support them to live the life they choose. Please find out more on our Uniting website, our Facebook page, send us an enquiry, or talk to us on 1800 864 846.