Darwin man Aiden clearly remembers the day his life changed for the better in 2014 while on a celebratory family holiday cruise in the Pacific Ocean.
He and his family were living in Tasmania at the time and Aiden was confined to a wheelchair for mobility and suffered chronic pain. He had just recovered from extensive surgery to his chest.
Aiden has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which is a genetic condition that mainly affects the joints, skin, skeletal system and walls of the blood vessels. The condition means that he has undergone various surgeries over the years.
As the ship travelled into the tropics his pain mysteriously lessened and four days into the holiday Aiden was out of his wheelchair, walking, and playing in the pool with everybody else.
“Past a certain point where the temperature started being tropical. I could move around, and I could walk. It was a drastic change. I went on tours and it was absolutely crazy, “Aiden said.
Not only was he able to move easier but his pain medication was drastically reduced. This meant that he felt clearer mentally as well as experiencing physical benefits.
On the cruise back to Hobart the reverse happened with Aiden’s previous pain and mobility problems returning. The family put the change in Aiden’s condition down to the warm tropical weather or different air pressure.
Back in Tasmania his pain was so agonising that even travelling in a car hurt making activities just too hard to participate in.
“It was like a slice of heaven and then it was back to reality. Which was not the greatest,” he said.
Things took another twist for the family with Aiden’s father being offered a job in Darwin shortly after the cruise.
“It was a win-win. Darwin is on the same part of the equator as the place where my pain decreased. I don’t know how I could have survived if I had to stay in Hobart.”
Aiden was participating in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Tasmania and was able to transfer his plan to Darwin because the scheme had started its rollout in the Northern Territory.
His plan is now managed by APM in Darwin. APM Communities helps NDIS participants and people with disability to identify and access the support they need. APM Local Area Coordinators (LACs) work directly with people with disability, carers and supporting family members.
Aiden’s NDIS plan includes various therapies, rehabilitation equipment in his home and assistive technology items. This year he decided his main goal would be increased independence through gaining his drivers’ licence.
APM developed a plan which has allowed Aiden to receive specialist driver training, therapies and support along his journey to achieving his licence.
Thanks to help from APM and funding from the NDIS Aiden was successful with his goal in August and bought his first car last week. The car has been slightly modified with blind spot mirrors.
“I don’t know what I would have done without the NDIS to be honest. Just the resources they can access is beneficial,” Aiden said.
Aiden’s mum Anitra said Aiden had joined APM about two years’ ago and his LAC had been instrumental to Aiden successfully getting his driver’s licence.
She described their LAC as caring, knowledgeable and a person who saw her role as more than “just a job” and was consistently helpful.
“I don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have the NDIS. Everything is so expensive,” she said.
“The amount that has been paid towards Aiden. We are so grateful.”
Aiden has a keen interest in green tree frogs and started raising them after noticing that cane toads were eating the tadpoles.
He has since built frog “hotels” and has trained the frogs, so they return to the safe homes when not active.
Aiden’s busy run towards independence has continued with a job offer, planned further education in herpetology and the family have recently purchased a new home where he will have his own living quarters.
You can follow Aiden’s passion for frogs on Instagram: @trulyribbitingstuff
As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.