Disability Action Week is an opportunity to celebrate the success of Griffith University Alumnus Gavin Jackson who persevered through a sporadic and often debilitating health condition to achieve his Bachelor’s degree in Human Services, which landed him the perfect job.
Soon after collapsing at work, Mr Jackson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease which attacks the central nervous system and causes a range of unpredictable symptoms such as chronic fatigue, vertigo, vision disturbance, trouble concentrating, muscle weakness and coordination and balance.
“I got really sick, my life turned upside down and I was out of action for six months,” Mr Jackson said.
“I felt like my life was unravelling, my marriage broke down, I lost my home, I found myself living on a disability pension and feeling very isolated.
“I was told people with MS have a reduced life expectancy, but I decided I’m not ready to give up just yet because I’ve got a great deal of life inside of me.”
Mr Jackson said he knew he was capable of rebuilding a new life to accommodate his changing health condition which fluctuated between tolerable and debilitating.
Following a decision to move from Far North Queensland to Brisbane to be closer to family and health services, Mr Jackson was accepted to study at Griffith University.
“Though studying from home was an option, it was important to me to go into the campus to meet regularly with my lecturers and other students,” he said.
“When I turned up to university as a mature-age student with a four-wheel walker, I thought I would feel out of place and look unusual, but I realised it was more of a mental hurdle than anything else.”
Mr Jackson was allowed to undertake a research-based work placement because it allowed more flexibility than a traditional work placement.
Eight years later, he earned a degree in Human Services and now works full-time with technology enabled home care provider Five Good Friends as a care coordinator helping clients to manage their aged care and NDIS packages.
“Although I was always sick, I was so determined to make it work,” he said.
“I’ve been with Five Good Friends for more than a year now and feel like I’ve found myself and like I have an identity.
“I have incredible empathy for our clients, and I know exactly what our NDIS clients are going through because I’ve got lived experience.
“I’m over the moon to be able to do the job I’ve studied and prepared for and it’s a fantastic place to work.
“When I first started to get sick and had to rethink my life plan, I didn’t know you could work from home, and I didn’t know you could get paid to talk to people.
“I have found my little niche in the world – I go into the office on Tuesdays and hand out chocolates and connect with the team because it’s important to put that effort in.
“I’ve got lots of reasons to be sad and depressed but I’m not, I just focus on all the good things I bring into my life.
“I’m so grateful for my experience and the flexibility at Griffith and to teachers such as Associate Professor Jennifer Cartmel who considered my needs and provided flexibility.”