Down but not out
Screened May 5, 2007
'Down But Not Out'
Kevin Richards has never wanted to be anything but a farmer - but his dream seemed impossible after he was paralysed in a farm accident while still a teenager.
But Kevin, who lives near Morrinsville in Waikato, is not a quitter - and this week's episode of The National Bank Country Calendar tells how he fought back against his disability and finally achieved his goal.
When he was 19, Kevin's life was full of promise. He had a steady girlfriend, he loved working on the family farm and he was contract shearing to save money for land of his own.
But all that changed forever in 1989 while he was doing a lambing beat. His 4WD farm bike hit a rut and slid off a steep hill.
Kevin was catapulted high in the air and landed heavily on his tailbone. When he tried to get up, his legs wouldn't move and his toes were numb.
"I knew straight away that half my body wasn't going to be used again," he says.
Kevin spent months in the Otara spinal unit and during that time he was already planning how he could return to a productive life on the farm.
A key factor in his rehabilitation was his determination to walk on callipers and crutches, which meant he could get out of his wheelchair.
With the help of physiotherapist Rose Hawkins, he achieved his goal after many months of struggle. He's one of only a handful of paraplegics in New Zealand who can get on their feet.
His brother Craig, a mechanic, built a special hoist for the tractor so Kevin could get aboard, allowing him to do farm jobs such as feeding out.
Kevin also taught himself to move an electric fence while sitting on a farm bike, so with the help of his dog he could move stock on the farm.
Today he plays a productive role on his family's 130-hectare sheep and beef farm and has achieved his dream of staying on the land.
Kevin plays down his own part in his success, saying he owes most of it to the support of his parents and Shona, his girlfriend at the time of the accident, who is now his wife and mother of their three children.
But Kevin is not a man to sit back and relax. Now he's set himself another goal - he has recently leased a neighbouring farm and plans to move into dairying, as well as continuing work on the family farm.
Kevin Richards is available to give motivational health and safety talks to corporates and groups. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Richards talked extensively with Country Calendar reporter Julian O'Brien about the impact of his accident, how he's coped personally and how he's managed to carry on farming. To watcg an extended version of the interview, including material that doesn't appear in the TV show, click on the related video link above.
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