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Life after a spinal injury

Finbar Mills was just 22 years old when his life changed in an instant.

It was November 28, 2009 when the young Brisbane local sustained a critical spinal injury that would leave him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Finbar was in Dalby enjoying a day with friends, racing around an off-road motorcycle track when his life changed forever.

“I said ‘just one more race’ to my friend,” Finbar recalls.

His friend took off in front of him.

“I was looking at him and didn’t see the tree that was close by,” he said.

In a split second, the handlebars clipped the tree, throwing Finbar off the bike.

“I don’t remember much, other than not being able to feel my legs.”

Finbar was lying on the ground, unable to move, in excruciating pain.

He had sustained multiple injuries including broken T3 and T4 vertebrae, a torn spinal cord ligament, six broken ribs, a broken shoulder, one lacerated lung, one punctured lung and bruising on the brain.

He urgently needed specialist medical care.

The RACQ CareFlight Rescue helicopter was called to airlift Finbar from Dalby Hospital to the Intensive Care Unit at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

He was placed in an induced coma and required chest drains to help his weakened lungs. Incredibly, Finbar survived on just five per cent of his lung capacity.

Finbar underwent a number of surgeries and procedures including a spinal operation, where two six-inch titanium rods, as well as screws and bolts, were inserted into his back to restructure and secure the injury to his vertebrae.

He spent six months in recovery at hospital learning to readapt to normal day living, getting around in a wheelchair and to care for himself.

Finbar credits CareFlight with playing a significant part in his treatment and his outcome.

“I’m a huge supporter of CareFlight – I can’t thank them enough for the work that they do, and I’ve experienced first-hand just how critical they are to the community,” he said.

“I’ll continue to spread the word about the great work they do as long as I can.”

Now, more than four years after the horrific crash, Finbar is still largely reliant on a wheelchair for mobility – though he can walk very short distances.

The confident young man is now preparing to complete his Bachelor of Communication at Griffith University, and has readjusted to life.

“I prefer to say ‘readaptation’ rather than ‘rehabilitation’ – I think that better describes the process I’ve gone through,” Finbar said.

“Readaptation is an emotional ride – you’re forced to redefine yourself as a person. But, ultimately, you find out who you are.

“But I live independently – I live by myself; I drive; I shop; I cook and I clean.

“I still live my life; I just live it sitting down!”