Gary W's story
Gary cares for his stepson, Ryan, who was born with Cerebral Palsy. When he’s not providing care to Ryan, at work, or spending time with his wife and other children, Gary can be found hanging out on his Harley Davidson.
Happiness in helping
Providing joy and support to others was something Gary was familiar with before he became an unpaid carer. After moving to Sydney as a young man, Gary bought his first Harley Davidson and joined a riding group. The group visited a children’s hospital weekly to take children living with disability for motorbike rides.
It was at one of the hospital’s Christmas events that Gary met his future wife, who at the time had two sons – her youngest was Ryan.
'My wife and I had many conversations about what caring for Ryan would be like and how it would affect my life. I understood it was a big responsibility, but it was something I was willing to take on. I wouldn’t change anything,' said Gary.
The joys of being a carer
A self-proclaimed clown, Gary loves joking around with Ryan. 'Inside that body is a really active mind,' said Gary.
Merriness and motorcycles are common when Gary and Ryan spend time together. Whether they’re wiping down the bike in the garage or hitting the road, it’s the quality time spent together that brings both immense joy.
'For me, the biggest reward is knowing I’ve helped change Ryan’s life. Because, let’s be honest, one day I won’t be here, but I know I’ve done some good and I’ve helped him. That’s my reward.'
When the going gets tough…
Sometimes the day-to-day tasks that Gary takes on can be daunting. For example, a simple trip to the shops now includes carrying Ryan into the car, getting him strapped in and making sure he’s gone to the bathroom or has a drink with him.
'In the time someone else would have gone to get the milk and come back, we’re still getting ready,' said Gary.
Inaccessible places also limit the experiences the whole family can share together. A visit to Bali, before footpaths were common, meant that Gary and the family were lifting Ryan and his wheelchair over kerbs and around obstacles constantly.
This, paired with a lack of accessibility at the hotel, left Gary with a back injury. The whole experience has stopped the family from taking more trips like this.
'People often ask me ‘how do you cope?’ and I respond with, 'Ryan is rewarding. There are days when I come home from work, and you know life can get you down and be tough, but I look at him and despite it all, he’s smiling and he’s happy'. It helps you to appreciate what you have,' said Gary.
Gary also worries about the future for Ryan. 'I’m sixty, soon I’m going to be seventy. Sometimes, I worry about how we’re going to cope. We don’t worry about ourselves, it’s a daily worry about what’s going to happen to Ryan.'
Calling on Carer Gateway
Like 80% of unpaid carers across Australia, Gary and his family value assistance from Carer Gateway to navigate services available to them as carers. Emotional support and safe respite options are valuable support services for Gary.
'Through Carer Gateway our family can also connect to a community of people who understand what we’re going through as parents and carers,' says Gary.