Triumph through adversity
TWELVE years after a footy accident which put him in a coma for five weeks, Dean Gordon is set to graduate with an associate degree from the University of Southern Queensland.
Dean, who now likes to be called Duck, attended school at Glennie Heights State School and Scots PGC College before finishing his secondary education at Ipswich Grammar School where he learnt to play rugby union.
“Rugby union is a mucho sport and impressed the girls,” he said with a laugh.
He was injured playing for Warwick in a game at St George on Mother's Day, 1997, and was in hospital for a year, five weeks in a coma at Royal Brisbane and later at Princess Alexandra Hospital where he received intensive therapy.
Dean recalled how scary it was when he woke from a coma but has no bitterness towards the game of rugby union.
A back rower, Dean went for a run from the scrum and was tackled.
“I was told there was nothing illegal in the tackle, it was just a once in a blue moon thing,” Dean said.
At age 40, he is in his seventh year of study at USQ and encourages fellow students to play team sport.
“You make friends for life in sport,” he said.
“Play hard but don't play unless you have your heart in it.”
After being on the edge of life for the five weeks he spent in a coma, Dean said he now appreciates every day.
“I have an extreme love of life,” he said.
“I love being around people and appreciate the support of the people who have been there for me.”
After living in Warwick, Goondiwindi and at the Gold Coast for the five years after his injury, Dean entered a new phase of his life when he enrolled at USQ seven years ago.
“I have lived at McGregor College the whole time and have made many new friends,” he said.
As one of the oldest students boarding at the college, he said life as a tertiary student was a fine balance between study and socialising.
“I tell the younger students to have a good time but to make sure they do a good job at their studies, they must remember they are not here (USQ) on a holiday,” Dean said.
He will receive an associate degree in general studies on September 5 after having completed 16 units.
Graduating will not mean an end to studies as Dean is then going to study human resource counselling.
The next course will take him at least four years at USQ.
“My long-term memory is pretty good but because of the brain injury, I have a bad short-term memory and can only do one subject a semester,” Dean said.
He only has encouragement for people with or without a disability to study at USQ.
“They treat you like family here,” he said.
“I tell people to do their best to achieve your aims in life.”
After he graduates as a counsellor in 2013 or 2014, Dean admits he will again be facing the real world.
“I will start off working part time,” he said.
He is keen to work with people facing up to the future with some level of disability.
Dean knows how hard it can be fighting back after a brain injury but anyone prepared to study for up to 12 years has a great story through which to encourage others to follow their dreams.