Sam’s making great strides

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By James Williamson

Sam Ford is learning to walk again. With the support of his family and carers, funding from the JMB Foundation, and an intensive physical therapy program at Making Strides, an injury recovery centre in Burleigh Heads, Queensland, 24-year-old Sam is doing things the only way he knows how – with independence, cheek, and a good measure of stubbornness.

Sam was the victim of an unprovoked, alcohol-fuelled assault in 2009 that left him with an acquired brain injury (ABI). His initial prognosis was poor. Doctors believed he would never leave hospital after losing the ability to walk and talk, suffering a stroke, losing hearing in one ear, and developing double vision and poor balance.

But Sam has proved the doctors wrong. Six years later, guided by a strong work ethic, a wicked sense of humour, and unflagging support from family and friends, he’s living at home and is making excellent progress.

It is the holistic nature of Sam’s treatment, combined with his strength and resolve to try everything, that has set him on the path to walking again. With financial support from JMB, Sam undergoes a challenging regimen of physical training at Making Strides that includes core strength work, stretching, sitting, jumping, and assisted walking. His trainers are experts at keeping Sam focused and energised, and they do so with humour and dedication. To complement his physical regime, Sam participates in a range of artistic activities, including painting and playing electronic music and computer games via neuro-plasticity (wiring the brain to neurotransmitters).

Margaret Ford, Sam’s mother and main carer, describes Sam as “a cheeky lad”. She and her husband Mike have welcomed support from JMB to help Sam achieve the best possible quality of life. “Although the first years after Sam’s ABI were tough, we believe that Sam and our family are in a better place at the moment,” Margaret said.  “It’s getting easier.”

Recently Sam, his parents and 22 year-old brother Joel holidayed in Hawaii where Sam took some much-needed time out from his training, sitting by the pool, going paddle-boarding, and even managing to sip a few cocktails!

Sam’s story has been featured on Four Corners on ABC Television and the program has been made available as part of an education program for high school students, highlighting the tragic consequences of the type of mindless, alcohol-fuelled violence that too many young Australians have fallen victim to.

Margaret Ford rejects the culture of violence that has become endemic in Australia – as we all do – and actively participates in educating young people most at risk of being either victims or perpetrators of violent attacks that lead to ABIs. She believes that support from the JMB Foundation is critical to her son, and other ABI sufferers, regaining quality of life and pride in what they can achieve.

Sam’s story, as told by ABC’s Four Corners, can be viewed here.