‘You’ve only got one life’: Child stroke survivor peddles message of hope before record attempt

Tom Quick has committed to cycling 9000 kilometres around Australia.

Tom Quick has committed to cycling 9000 kilometres around Australia. Photo: Christiane Barro

Tom Quick hasn’t been able to move the right side of his body since he was 12. But he isn’t letting that stand in the way of what could be a record-breaking challenge.

Now 27, the part-time university student is planning to cycle 9000 kilometres around Australia.

Tom wants to cross the northernmost, easternmost, southernmost and westernmost point of the mainland – to show other survivors that anything is possible.

It would be a major achievement for anyone, let alone someone who was told at the start of high school they would never be able to walk on their own.

Tom remembers the morning he suffered a stroke – a condition affecting 600 Australian children every year – how he woke with a severe headache.

While his mum reached for a painkiller and a glass of water, Tom started screaming. Then he blacked out.

He woke up in hospital 37 days later.

I thought I was in a video game and if you press this button somewhere it’ll go back to the start, everything will be fine.’’
– Tom Quick, stroke survivor

During his recovery, Tom’s physiotherapist went so far as to say he would not be able to walk the distance from the car park of the Melbourne Cricket Ground into the stadium, without assistance.

And if that wasn’t clear enough, when Tom asked the surgeon who he credits for saving his life, when he’d be able to run again, it was put bluntly.

“You wouldn’t,” he recalled the surgeon saying.

“My love for sport had died right there when I had my stroke.”

During school lunchtimes, Tom would sit inside a room used by staff who helped students with disabilities, and eat lunch while his group of friends walked one kilometre to the nearest McDonald’s.

Given the break was for 50 minutes, Tom thought “don’t bother trying to walk up there”.

Until one day, one of them opened his eyes to realise “so what if you only get a 10-minute conversation? You still get 10 minutes with your mates”.

Tom on his recumbent trike. Photo: Christiane Barro

It wasn’t until he started playing table tennis in Year 8 that he gained back some drive.

Adaptation, resilience and mental toughness for me happened over a long period of time, and it’s still going.’’

After receiving his L-plates, he struggled to get behind the wheel due to the fact he is blind in the corner of his right eye.

So a recreation worker who was helping Tom with his recovery suggested he get on a three-wheeled bicycle called a recumbent trike.

With a little push from his parents, he half-heartedly said yes.

Since then, he’s managed to cycle about 380 kilometres over four days for the Great Victorian Bike Ride.

Quashing his physiotherapist’s belief that he’d struggle to walk on his own, Tom also completed the 96-kilometre Kokoda Trail in 2014.

He is currently cycling dozens of kilometres every day to prepare for his eight to 12-month long journey around Australia on his recumbent trike, which was funded through the NDIS.

The route Tom will take.

He is hoping people from across the country will cycle alongside him – even just for a few kilometres – as he journeys from Steep Point in Western Australia to Cape York in Far North Queensland.

“I believe no one has ever cycled a recumbent trike to the four furthest points of Australia before, let alone anyone with my capabilities,” he said.

In between cycling as many as 80 kilometres a day, Tom will be stopping at schools to talk about his journey, starting on August 2 next year, to mark his 28th birthday.

His message: “You’ve only got one life, so make the most of it.”

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