I joined the Australian Army as a commando officer in May 2007. While on patrol in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, an improvised explosive device exploded and killed one of our group. I suffered a traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury and cracks to some of my vertebrae. Three other Australian soldiers were injured as well.
The impact of my injuries on my family has been nothing short of profound. A couple of hours after I was wounded, I rang my wife in Adelaide on a satellite phone from the battlefield in Afghanistan to let her know that I was wounded but ok. She heard my voice with rifle fire and explosions in the background. That phone call alone over six years ago caused her a great deal of stress and anxiety. And even today the extent of my ongoing cognitive disabilities can cause some issues in our relationship.
My road to recovery
For those suffering from traumatic brain injuries, many simple and basic tasks become monumental barriers. My injuries and decreased sensory abilities still affect my daily life. With three young children, daily tasks have to be managed well.
My retraining started with basic literacy and numeracy and speech therapy. I went to TAFE to learn how to write again. I then needed to get my business qualification. Thanks to DVA, my training was adapted to take into account my specific injuries and was delivered one-on-one.
Planning the discharge
I was medically discharged in July 2012 in Adelaide. This date was set about nine months prior to discharge by my Army unit and DVA. This was helpful because when I was discharged, I had a very good idea about what I was entitled to financially and how my rehabilitation plan would work. Planning the transition into civilian life with all parties involved and speaking to each other is critical to the success in those first, early post-discharge days.
It does not always happen perfectly the first time
Test, fail, adjust and succeed: DVA and the rehab service provider let me pick reasonable goals that empowered me as an individual and will hopefully set an example in the community. When thinking about the future, you have to be realistic. I have seen people set unrealistic expectations about themselves and also about the services they feel should be provided. This can cause some suffering. It can make you feel you are alone, or are not being treated fairly. So planning and being able to trial is very important, because it does not always happen perfectly the first time.
A great sense of fulfilment
The fear of failure and the emotions you and your family experience when you fail can be hard to manage. What you need to do is to learn from that failure, and change and adjust your goals.
In my case, we decided to balance my business with charity work. So my plan was to work for my business part-time, or as much as I physically could, and also work for Soldier On, a charity established to support Australia’s wounded defence personnel. Both give me a great sense of fulfilment, professionally and personally.
The basis of returning to work and rehabilitation starts at home. DVA offer a wide variety of parcelled services to me and my family. I am assisted in my parental obligations in caring for my family which means I can focus my energy and my cognitive ability on my job in the office.
To determine what would be provided for me in the office, we discussed two key questions: what are Bronson’s disabilities? how can we help make up for those disabilities within the context of running a business? The assistance I get there is vital to make up for my cognitive deficits. There are tasks that I did very well prior to being wounded that I am now horrible at. Hats off to the department for providing that great resource to me.
DVA has also helped me make up for many of my individual deficits by modifying the physical environment, both at home and in the office.
Ludus Training International Pty Ltd, is the Company I set up to try and give myself purpose and self esteem. This was not my first attempt at getting back to work, but with determination, tenacity and the backing of my family in February 2014, I am still in business and the business is growing. Initially established as a Registered Training Organisation through the partnership with Australian Forensic Service providing bespoke Training, Operational Risk Management and Protective Services, we now offer critical support to organisations expanding into emerging markets. Things are looking up for myself and my family. I am not always able to work a full day but I am in a much better place than I was five years ago. In five years’ time I will be better again. It will of course take work, no doubt about it, but I will continue to get better.
My rehabilitation providers have been great in the support provided during these past few years. They are caring and understanding. I always feel that there are people working with me, not a bureaucracy. My hope is that, through my rehabilitation plan, I will become self-sufficient as a business owner, a father and a husband.
The path ahead can be difficult
Although the severity of Bronson’s injuries mean that he is unlikely to return to the same health and capabilities he had enjoyed before his accident, Bronson has found a lifestyle that works well for him. Rehabilitation can often be a strenuous journey, but the right support and assistance to get through the program step-by-step will help to ensure positive and successful outcomes.
If you have a successful rehabilitation outcome and you wish to share your story, please rehabilitation [at] dva.gov.au (contact us).
Open Arms - Veteran & Family Counselling (formerly VVCS), is a national mental health service that provides 24-hour free and confidential counselling, group programs, and suicide prevention training for current and ex-serving ADF members, and their family. To get support, or to find out more, call 1800 011 046 or visit the Open Arms web site