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SEVEN years ago, 62-year-old Lud Kerec was on a gentle Sunday afternoon ride as part of his final “wind down” preparation for the Port Macquarie Ironman event in a week’s time.
But Lud never made it to the event, he didn’t even make it home.
When turning a corner he was hit by another cyclist who was on the wrong side of the cycle path.
The other cyclist got up but Lud didn’t.
His helmet strap had “garroted” his neck and caused a dislocation of his spine.
His spinal cord was intact but badly bruised and Lud had instantly lost pretty much all function below his chest including his hands and chest muscles.
“Life certainly changed in a heartbeat,” says Lud’s son, Andrew.
“Living with quadriplegia has become my dad’s new ‘normal’.
And living with a quadriplegic has become Andrew’s family’s new “normal”, which is why he is now currently half way through a solo, 5450-kilometre, “Spine Tingling Ride” from Canberra to Humpty Doo, Darwin.
Andrew and his younger brother Mal, a triathlete and ironman, grew up in Canberra regularly cycling with their dad, so for Andrew, riding was an obvious choice to raise money.
The ride is to gain awareness and funds for spinal cord repair research, Project Edge, people with physical and complex disabilities, Hartley Lifecare and Livable Housing Australia.
“It took a while, but even after experiencing such a terrible life-changing accident to a loved one, you eventually begin to appreciate that perhaps everything does happen for a reason,” Andrew says.
“You can start looking for ways to create positive outcomes, directions and results.”
For Andrew, his dad’s accident has revealed local issues with medical treatments as well as social exclusion for people in similar situations.
“After an accident causing severe spinal cord injury it is critical that initial treatment/surgery is performed as soon as possible to maximise the chances of any recovery of function,” Andrew says.
“It is generally only available in the major cities, of which Canberra is not.
“Well over 24 hours was lost in transferring dad to Sydney after his accident.”
Lud remained in the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney for several months before he was able to return home.
“In the several months that we were in the Spinal Unit at the Prince of Wales Hospital it became very obvious that the biggest barrier to many patients going home was not appropriate recovery, but availability of appropriate care and accommodation,” Andrew says.
If it wasn’t for Andrew’s family, Luc would’ve had to remain in hospital for a year longer.
“My wife and I were able to make modifications to our new home, that was under construction, and mum and I provided all of dad’s health and hygiene care for 12 months,” Andrew says.
As builders, Andrew and Lud started a family business in 1996 called Renaissance Homes, so the family was able to build a specialised home for Lud up the road from Andrew’s house in Forde.
While Lud has remained optimistic, conquering the physical and mental impact of his injury, the social exclusion remains an ongoing anxiety.
“In the majority of cases, he can no longer visit family and friends as he simply cannot access their homes,” Andrew says.
This is one of the main reasons that’ll keep Andrew raising awareness and pedalling until mid May, just days before he turns 48.
Riding anywhere between 100 to 190-kilometres a day, Andrew has already raised around $70,000, with hopes to raise another $30,000.
“Dad is the first person to send me a satellite text message of support in the morning and a congratulations at the end of the day,” Andrew says.
“I always feel he is with me, that he has conquered more adversity than I’ll ever face in a day on a bike and that drives me on.”
Andrew’s dad and brother will fly to Darwin to ride the last 10-kilometres with him, finishing in the driveway of a family friend’s home in Humpty Doo.
And then a month later, on June 14, the Kerec family in conjunction with Hartley Lifecare and SpinalCure Australia will host a charity dinner at Albert Hall, Yarralumla.
On the night there will be a raffle, silent and live auctions, music, food and speakers, including Andrew and his dad, who will share their personal experiences.
Andy Friend, the former Brumbies coach and current Australian Mens’ Rugby 7’s coach will be the MC of the event.
All proceeds from the dinner will add to the funds already pledged to Andrew’s chosen charities.
Buy tickets via Hartley Care on 6282 4411 or email firstname.lastname@example.org