Jim just wants to get on with life
By MEL MARTIN
THE end of a year-long nightmare is finally in sight for Jim and Rosemary Wicks.
But it's been the toughest year of their lives, starting when Jim became a quadriplegic after a fall at home.
He was immediately flown to Sydney, where he became stranded in a net of red tape, that would take the determination of Rosemary and the help of a community to untangle.
While at the Royal North Shore Hospital, Jim and Rosemary were told they would be able to access Attendant Care from the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC), which would provide Jim with the help he needed at home.
But it soon became clear that due to a lack of funding, home care would not be provided.
"I entered 300 something on the waiting list," Jim said.
Without home care, Jim would have to go to a nursing home, and after 33 years of marriage that was not something Jim and Rosemary were prepared to accept.
"Before the accident, I ran my own business and was always very active and sports minded," Jim said.
"Now I've had to sell my motorbikes, my boat, the airplane I built. My golf clubs will stay in the garage.
"You lose all of that, and you lose your dignity. Then you've got somebody telling you they're not going to look after you any further."
So the battle began.
Rosemary and Jim's family made hundreds of phone calls to NSW Minister for Disability Services John Della Bosca's office and other relevant ministers, while members of the Coffs Harbour Bible Church wrote letter after letter.
Nationals Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser joined the fight, raising the issue in NSW Parliament.
"Even the Prime Minister's office new everybody's name," Jim said.
A month ago, Jim and Rosemary heard the good news.
Home care would be provided. Jim would be going home. "Now DADHC have reopened the High Needs Pool, so rather than prioritising according to the date on the application, they prioritise according to needs," Jim said.
"It's what Rosie and I always wanted ? not just help for ourselves, but for other people as well, because there are people in much worse situations than we are."
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But there is one last obstacle before Jim can cross the threshold of his own home ? modifying it to enable wheelchair access.
And while the community has already rallied behind him, there is still plenty to be done.
"It's a wonderful thing how the community here wanted to help. Yet the community leaders turn their backs on you," Jim said.
"It shouldn't be a matter of money, that's just not a good enough excuse.
"They send millions and millions of dollars overseas and can't even look after their own people.
"It's hard enough to worry about being a quadriplegic without having to worry about whether I may be able to go home. It tears the family apart. It nearly destroyed me."
The fight also took Rosemary to some of the lowest times of her life.
"It's a dark place to be, but we worked through it," she said.
"To have Jim home will be wonderful."
A spokesman for Mr Della Bosca said the Attendant Care Program had always been administered on a needs basis.
"Waiting times will vary depending on the level of support the applicant requires," he said.
As at July 1, 2005, there were 324 people on the waiting list for Attendant Care.
The Coffs Harbour Bible Church has established the Jim Wicks Support Fund to help pay for the home modifications and a vehicle that will need to be modified at an added cost of about $35,000. To help Jim get home through a donation of money, material, or time, call Pastor David Mitchell on 6658 3197 or send a cheque to PO Box 874, Coffs Harbour.