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Challenging year for resilient duo

Tom’s nightmare recovery
Tom told he might face amputation

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It’s been a hard year for Tom Martin and his family.

Months on from a serious car crash, Martin is still recovering in a wheelchair.

The 18-year-old Masterton man had been travelling with three friends through Lower Hutt along Cambridge Tce in October when the crush happened.

He had just picked up his Nissan Prairie from his uncle’s where it had been having some work done.

“We were going down Cambridge Tce and I remember seeing two cars coming towards me. Nothing out of the ordinary.

“Then I noticed a Holden Commodore coming up really fast on the wrong side of the road.”

He reacted by swerving sharply to the left, narrowly avoiding a head-on-collision

The Commodore clipped his car sending it into a 360-degree spin on to the footpath, before flipping about 300m up the road.

The driver of the Commodore fled the scene in another vehicle before crashing on the Remutaka Hill Rd where he later died.

Trapped in the front seat until emergency services arrived, Martin said he was “just mind-blown” when he  saw the damage done to the car.

“You couldn’t really see much from the inside, but when you got outside it was crazy.”

Two of his passengers were injured and Martin was left with a broken right leg and blood pouring from cuts on his face.

He said he was no stranger to pain having broken his leg in a motocross accident in April.

“When I normally crash, I’d go all hypo and jump around,” he said. “I have an adrenaline rush and start shaking. This time it was the opposite. I think I was in so much shock and I just wanted to sleep.”

Three months on from the crush, it was still hard to talk about it, he said.

“It was hard to process what had happened.”

Still confined to a wheelchair, he said he felt like he was “back at square one again”.

Three-weeks ago his other leg became infected as it had not yet recovered enough from the earlier break to take his full weight. He was told he might face amputation if it didn’t clear up, but thankfully antibiotics had worked. Martin hoped the cast would be off by January.

“It’s so frustrating at times because I wake up and feel like I’m ready to go then remember. One morning I forgot which leg was broken.”

Health costs had been covered by ACC, and even included a taxi to and from work, but Martin had been forced to take a month off from his job at Powershop.

“It’s been a really hard year. It has been tough for my whole family. I started driving recently which is cool to get back on the road again. I get anxious though – I don’t know what other cars are going to do.”

He said it was important to be aware of one’s surroundings and remember that not everyone on the road has the same skill level or amount of driving experience.

Luke deserves employment

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Luke Gibbs doesn’t let what other people think stop him from doing what he wants.

They told him he wouldn’t last when he started studying for automotive qualifications at UCOL – he was the fourth person in the class to finish.

Now he wants to move on to paid work.

He’s been looking for a job for four years without any luck.

It seems to have something to do with his wheels.

While the 25-year-old has spina bifida and needs to use a wheelchair, he’s a practical guy and enjoys working with his hands.

For the past month he’s been helping out at the Wairarapa Resource Centre, sanding and restoring furniture for sale.

It’s a one-day-a-week job but he’ll often take pieces home and continue working on them.

“They call it upcycling,” Gibbs said. “I take old furniture that people have scratched, I’ll sand it down and make it look nice again. It’s a new skill to learn. I’m open to anything, I’ll give anything go.”

While he’s glad to have work at the resource centre Gibbs really wants paid work.

After leaving college he studied for two years at UCOL, getting level two and three automotive qualifications under his belt.

He passed the course despite being told from the start that he’d fail.

“They told me at the beginning of the year, before it had even started that I would fail. They said you’ve got to do wheels and tyres which is all foot-operated.

“I passed. I was the fourth in my class to pass.”

After finishing his course Gibbs began job searching, sending his CV to motorbike, diesel, turbo and automotive shops. When he did not receive any offers, he took the fact he was in a wheelchair off his CV and suddenly the offers started coming in.

Gibbs said people’s attitudes changed when he went in for an interview.

“I’ve gone in for interviews and people say I would never have thought that was the CV of someone in a wheelchair.

“I don’t know whether they just don’t want the hassle or because they’re scared OSH will come and shut them down. But they won’t take me on.”

The things Gibbs can do often surprise people.

Gibbs rides a Honda TRX400X sport quadbike on the weekends and this year became the manager of a football team.

“There’s a lot of things I can do that people don’t expect I’d be able to do, mechanical, engineering, riding a motorbike. I played soccer for a year at MIS [Masterton Intermediate School].”

“I was the goalie. I was on the ground crawling and charging people. I’m not bothered I just go for it. Make the most of it.”

He said that throughout his life he always tried to not let people stop him doing what he wants.

“At trail rides I’ve had a couple of people say to me, ‘What are you doing? You’re in a wheelchair.’ And it’s like ‘yeah, I’m already in a wheelchair, it can’t get much worse’.

“If I fall off a quad bike the first thing I think is, ‘is the quad bike going to be okay?’ because it costs money to fix the quad bike.”

Despite persevering for four years Gibbs said he had not been able to get a paid job in the automotive industry and was just interested in any opportunity to get work.

“At this point I’ll just take anything. I don’t understand how people can sit at home and be glad to be on the benefit.

“All I want is work, whether its part-time or full-time.

“I’ll do anything.”

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