John Blunden opens up on the freak accident on a mountain bike that left him a paraplegic and why he hasn’t given up on walking again. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
John Blunden opens up on the freak accident on a mountain bike that left him a paraplegic and why he hasn’t given up on walking again. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

'I haven't given up': Dad vows he will walk again

FOR 15 seconds, John Blunden was all alone, stuck on his side in the dirt with no feeling from his waist down, his crashed mountain bike lying next to him.

As trackside paramedics raced to his aid, dark thoughts raced even faster through the father-of-two's head.

Mr Blunden remembers being unable to breathe and his desperate but failed attempts to roll onto his back.

The 15 seconds must have felt like an eternity.

"I knew straight away it was serious. The pain levels were huge," Mr Blunden said, his voice breaking as he relived the June 24, 2018 ordeal.

Siena Catholic College teacher John Blunden spent five months at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.
Siena Catholic College teacher John Blunden spent five months at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.

Mr Blunden was halfway through an Enduro race at the popular Garapine track near Kybong when disaster struck.

He remembers hitting the jump at speed, his front wheel skidding and the natural reaction to touch the brakes.

"I was lying on my side, my arm was very sore and I because of my broken ribs I was struggling to breathe.

"When the accident happened I was all alone and I couldn't move. It was all gone."

Officials and course paramedics administered aided him as best they could before he was flown to Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Siena Catholic College teacher John Blunden is determined to return to work next year, two years after a freak accident put him in a wheelchair.
Siena Catholic College teacher John Blunden is determined to return to work next year, two years after a freak accident put him in a wheelchair.

His injuries included seven broken ribs on his right side with one puncturing his lung, five broken ribs on the left, his sternum broken in two places, a crack in C4 vertebrae and his T4-5 had burst.

Surgeons removed his bone fragments around his spine and inserted metal rods in place but it would be five and a half months until he was back home, with metal robs in his spine, officially as a neuropathic T3 paraplegic.

Six hundred and 24 days have passed since the Siena Catholic College schoolteacher's crash.

Confined to a wheelchair, Mr Blunden says he is doing "reasonably well"

While his doctors and physio rehabilitation specialists have told him the chance of him walking are slim to none, the inspiring schoolteacher is determined to prove them wrong.

"I have a lot more core control now, which makes moving around the chair a lot easier and I can almost hold my arms in front of myself," Mr Blunden said.

"When I first got out of it was rough but once you accept you're in a wheelchair you just get on with life and do what you can.

"I still try every day to get out, I haven't given up but at the same time I am at peace with it.

"The hardest part of the rehab is regaining the muscle you lose from being in hospital, It's getting easier.

John Blunden will continue his rehabilitation at home and hopes to return to teaching next year. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
John Blunden will continue his rehabilitation at home and hopes to return to teaching next year. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

"Experts tell you not to expect much, in their situation they don't see many success stories.

"But looking at where I was, I am pretty stoked now and proud.

"The family and I have been through rough trot but we are getting there."

So promising is Mr Blunden's rehabilitation, he's had to revisit his short-term goals.

"I miss teaching yes, it won't be for a little while but by next year I'd say."

Mr Blunden said he was overwhelmed with the shower of support that flooded in on the days, weeks and months he was struck down for but that he won't forget it.

"It was amazing, I taught plenty of people at Siena but I was very surprised how many people knew me and wanted to help," he said.