As a father of three young girls, Chris had spent the final weeks of December 2016 working long days at his fledgling electrical business before enjoying a well-earned break with his family.

But what he imagined to be a time for spoiling his girls with presents, long lunches and relaxing in the summer sun turned into the unimaginable overnight; a life-changing diagnosis and a six-month stint in intensive care.

“I went to work on December 23, totally normal and healthy,” Chris remembers. “It hit me nearly two hours into that day, I just started getting weakness in my legs.”

“By lunchtime it had spread to my arms, but weirdly I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t expect anything because I was a healthy guy.”

Having managed to finish the job that day, Chris made his way home and went to bed, not raising the alarm with his family.

Waking up unable to move, paramedics rushed Chris to Busselton Hospital where he was quickly diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome due to the severity of his condition.

I explain it as MS in reverse. It is the same demyelination of the nerve sheath, but in my case, I lost all my nerve sheath overnight,” Chris explains.

Unlike MS, Guillain-Barré affects the peripheral nervous system – the network of nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord.

“They flew me out to Perth straight away, because when it’s that severe, there is a real risk of going into full cardiac arrest,” he said.

What followed was six months in Fiona Stanley’s intensive care unit on a ventilator.

From the start, doctors told Chris he may never fully recover, citing that people living with Guillain-Barré rarely made significant recoveries past the two-year mark.

But giving up was never an option for Chris.

“I have just never given up. I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had to go straight back to work, I’ve still been able to do my rehab and that I have had MSWA, they have done a lot for me.”

“The MSWA physios have been incredible, to be honest – it makes me emotional to think about it.”

Chris said MSWA had been his partner in care from the beginning, when he relied on care support workers for getting out of bed, showering and dressing. Thankfully, these services are no longer needed thanks to his commitment to rehabilitation through physiotherapy.

“I don’t use them as much for my personal care anymore, because I don’t need it – which is amazing. As I have gotten stronger, I found my own ways of being able to look after myself more. But they were there from the start.”

Fast-forward to 2023, and Chris’ seven years of steadfast dedication, self-belief and hard work has paid off in spades, bringing home not one, but two medals for Australia at the 2023 Ambilympics held in Metz, France.

The competition attracted 400 competitors from 24 different countries, with Chris the only Australian representative competing in a skilled trade category: electrical engineering.

Chris, alongside his partner – and recently qualified apprentice – Poss, had two days to wire up a mock house, complete with an electrical switchboard, to be judged on the accuracy of delivering a set of plans, earning him both a silver medal and outstanding achievement for Australia.

“I would never have thought that I would end up with a silver medal for Australia a couple of years ago, so I think it’s a real ‘feel-good’ kind of thing,” Chris said.

“It’s so positive for everyone, particularly those in the disabled community. It gives everyone that ability to do something they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to achieve.”

As well as representing his country on a global scale, the self-proclaimed “rev head” is also in his fourth season of racing go-karts, which Chris modified to be hand controlled, with help from some of his carers.

“Funnily enough, I think go-karting is what has done so much for my upper-body strength. It’s as good for rehab, as it is for mental health and everything,” he said.

Reflecting back, Chris said his journey had opened his eyes to a whole new world. But through it all, Chris is an unstoppable force when it comes to achieving what he sets his mind to.

Chris is now back to running his business, Down South Electrical, with Poss at his side and is close to walking, thanks to the ongoing work he puts in with MSWA’s Physiotherapy Team in Busselton and Bunbury.

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