Lifestyle

Quadriplegic teacher aide a great role model

ROLE MODEL: Dan Horton has lunch with the kids every day.
ROLE MODEL: Dan Horton has lunch with the kids every day. Kirsten Cunningham

A MAN who became a quadriplegic after a motorbike accident is working as a teacher aide at Yarwun Primary School, and is one of the best, according to staff.

Dan Horton took a break from studying yesterday to reflect on the accident that 10 years ago put him in a wheelchair.

"It's not something to celebrate, but I definitely thought about it," he said.

"It feels like it only happened a few months ago, but at the same time it feels so far away."

On November 27, 2004, at 3pm, Mr Horton was attempting a motorbike trick over a foam pit, when something went horribly wrong.

"I still don't know if the bike hit my head or exactly what happened," he said.

"But when I couldn't feel my legs I knew it was bad."

When he got to hospital, they told him a dislocation in his C6 vertebrae had damaged his spinal cord.

"Suddenly I was an 18-year-old quadriplegic," he said.

There's a quote I really like that says - things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out

"I was in old-school traction for six weeks and had bolts in my head with a weight attached to it."

He lost the use of his legs, but was lucky to have some function in the arms.

"I was in the spinal unit for six months in Brisbane," he said.

"The initial bit was a bit tough, but it wasn't long before the other boys and I were stealing the nurse's keys and putting them on the remote control car so they had to chase it."

He said a big part of the healing process was laughter and keeping things as normal as possible.

He said he had to come to terms with being a quadriplegic and knew that if he got caught up in regret or depression he wouldn't be able to move on.

"Mum always said if you could've bottled the energy and laughter that's in the spinal unit, you'd be rich."

In 2008 he was given the opportunity to work at Yarwun Primary School as a teacher aide.

Principal Rebecca Brown said he was one of the best teacher aides she had ever worked with.

"He is so easy to get along with and has such an amazing rapport with the students," she said.

"He sits with the kids at lunchtime and really listens to what they have to say. He is such a great role model for the boys."

Mr Horton plans to keep working at the school and is about to complete the Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies (STEPS) program at CQ University.

He is deciding whether to study a bachelor of teaching or psychology next year.

"There's a quote I really like that says - things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out," he said.

"Ten years later, I still can't use my legs, but I have my whole life ahead of me, and with the amazing people in it, I'm excited to see what else I can do."

WHAT THE KIDS SAY:

Carson McKenzie, 11: He's awesome. He never gets upset when we annoy him.

Sarah Windsor, 11: Dan is a good teacher because he understands a bit more about what we like because he is young.

Kye Ehmann, 10: He's awesome. We talk about motorbikes and we have a secret handshake.

Topics:  accident, quadriplegic, teacher aide, teaching, yarwun



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