It’s one of those rainy spring days when running from car to interview leaves me sopping. Today, Bryce is bed-bound after his chair short-circuited in the wet. I’ve been here less than one minute and am already humbled and pulling myself into line for thoughtlessly complaining about my wet boots.
WORDS TALIA WALDEGRAVE PHOTOS LOGAN DAVEY
Bryce says, “Someone once told me that tough things happen to good people, but I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”
“On January 28th 2007 my life changed forever.” The date rolls off Bryce’s tongue with such ease and it’s pretty obvious the day has replayed in his head countless times.
“I was at a stag do in Wellington. We’d all had too many beers and a few of the boys wanted to have a swim on the waterfront. We were all in our suits, and I really couldn’t be bothered. But the boys were like, ‘Nah, nah, come on’.
“Jumping in, I misjudged the depth and hit my head. Straight away, I had a massive numbing sensation and knew I’d done something wrong. I was straight into ICU and had to ring Mum and Dad, which was pretty freaky. It instantly flipped their world upside down.”
As I openly admit to Bryce that I wouldn’t cope so well in his situation, I peer around his room to see encouraging affirmations and
inspirational quotes lining the walls; these are a reflection of his warrior spirit.
“I was on struggle street for a long period of time. There are days when I get frustrated or angry, but if my chair breaks, what am I going to do.
“There are so many different dynamics coming at you all the time, and for some people it just gets too much. Everyone, disability or not, has their challenges, and they each deal with it in their own way.
“That’s what I do with the charity every day; I peel back the layers and prove that I’m okay, that life goes on. I turn a negative into a positive.”
“I don’t just sit in my chair and watch TV all day. I want to live my life.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve met Bryce. I know of his story, but not entirely well; he went to school with my husband, who often talks about what Bryce was like before his accident.
“I used to be really active, just like any Kiwi bloke; I loved sport. Obviously all of that changed. You’ve got a lot of time to think when you’re staring at a ceiling. The doctors at the spinal unit encourage you to put up photos of things you like to do. I’d always been around water and I really got to thinking how much I missed going fishing. It’s an activity that’s deep in the Kiwi psyche. I knew there must be others in my situation who missed it too.”
“There were a few raised eyebrows about the reality of a tetraplegic organising fishing trips for other people with disabilities. But I just said, ‘Stuff it, this is what I want to do’.” And Wish 4 Fish was born.
“It’s not all about raising money. If someone comes to me and says they want to go out on the water and fish, I work out a way to make it happen.”
Bryce spends countless hours, with incredible support, using just his phone to organise events, lunches and auctions to raise funds for Wish 4 Fish, event sponsored by EVES at Mills Reef, not only raised $17,000, but also signed up 38 new members to the Wish 4 Fish Supporters’ Club.
“I wanted to set the charity up properly with a good structure, so I utilised support from my family and local businesses networks. and I’ve had some great guidance from some good people. We’ve really started to project what we have and where we’re going.”
It’s impossible not to be moved by Bryce’s story. When I leave, instead of loathing the rain, I embrace it.