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Rolling through the dark by finding the light

It wasn’t until Ben Beling finished a gruelling ten-month stint in hospital that the pain really hit home. 

Bound to a wheelchair as a C5 quadriplegic, it was a moment of reckoning for the then-26-year-old Ben. 

Rewind to earlier that year, in 2012, and Ben was a happy-go-lucky bloke working hard as a livestock sales team manager in Toowoomba. 

He’s the rare breed of guy who just loves to work. But the demands of his job meant Ben was constantly commuting to Longreach and Rockhampton. It was a tough schedule. 

One morning, a sleepy Ben was driving along a well-trodden strip of road when, in one heartbeat, his life changed forever.

His car accident was a brutalisation on his body, and he was quickly airlifted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane. He spent the next six weeks lying immobile in a bed in the ICU. He had no feeling beneath his upper spine injury – no feeling below the chest and limited arm movement. It was a devastating moment, but the worst was yet to come. 

“While I was in ICU I suffered two cardiac arrests, I had a tracheotomy, I got pneumonia and I even had to learn how to breathe and swallow again.

“But it wasn’t until I got home from hospital in the wheelchair that it hit home. This was going to be the rest of my life… There were some dark times when I got home.”

But soon Ben’s natural optimism shined through the dark times. He decided that he couldn’t change what had happened, but he could change his response to it. 

“You’ve got to surround yourself with people who have a positive influence. I’m blessed to have the love and support of my friends and family who were never going to take no for an answer.”

One day, an opportunity presented itself when Ben was chatting to neighbour Mark Taylor, a Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges (QATC) instructor.

Mark suggested Ben could use his knowledge and interest in cattle sales to get a qualification. Ben’s more of a ‘hands-on’ than a ‘head-down’ sort of guy and thought studying wasn’t for him. But Mark shared his experience of QATC – he explained it was a fully integrated, practical learning experience and Ben realised it was exactly the sort of thing he wanted – and needed.

In my situation, it would have been easy to say no to opportunities, but you've got to go for it, spinal injury or no spinal injury.

Ben studied a AHC50116 Diploma of Agriculture which involved online, face-to-face and RPL (Recognised Prior Learning) taking into account his previous position in livestock sales.Through his study, Ben attended industry events including cattle sales breeding and selection practicals and industry workshops.

“I’ve got to give a special mention to Peter Scott, my instructor, who went above and beyond. He’s a great mentor to me and he’s become a great friend.”

Now, Ben, who’s 33 years old, has finished his Diploma of Agriculture and is actively seeking work in the local rural sector. He says he feels excited to work hard again.

“I’m working with some employment agencies, and everyone who I talk to are just happy to see someone who’s motivated. I just want to contribute again. 

“I have a seven year old son, Thomas, and I want to be a great role model for him too. I want him to realise, you know, dad’s in a wheel chair and he’s still able to contribute to society.”

There’s no doubt Ben won’t be looking for work for long. His zest for life and optimism about the future paired with his penchant for hard work makes him an ideal candidate – wheelchair or no wheelchair. 

Aside from his positive outlook and new lease on life, Ben is also humble about his journey and grateful for who he has become after his accident. 

“Before my accident, I didn’t have time to stop. I live in a beautiful part of the world and I didn’t have time to look and see how beautiful the area I live in really is, and how beautiful the people around me are. 

“It took my accident to stop and appreciate the people I have in my life. Now, I get up every morning with a smile on my face.”

“But I often say, there’s nothing special about me. I’m one of many facing adversity and I’m choosing to tackle it head on.”

Photo credit: Mark Phelps 

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