New app a 'breakthrough' for spinal cord injury victims

Andy Farrell was doing 165km/h in a water ski race on the Hawkesbury River when he crashed headfirst into the water.

Nine somersaults later the Werri Beach man was face down, unconscious.

"My teammates spun the boat around and found me floating face down in the water, they jumped in and checked my vitals which were non-existent but fortunately they managed to keep me alive through CPR," Mr Farrell said yesterday.

The prognosis wasn't good. A broken neck, water in the lungs and swelling on the brain.

"When my family got to the hospital the doctors informed them to call everyone in to say goodbye as I would not survive the night," Mr Farrell said.

"At first I couldn't move a muscle, talk, breathe on my own or eat food.

"Then slowly, with some very intense rehabilitation, I began to regain some strength and movement. In just seven months I was out of spinal rehabilitation."

So now, 13 years later, quality of life is everything to the tetraplegic.

Mr Farrell embraces new technology and is passionate about helping people with life-changing injuries to get back some sense of normality.

A new iPhone and iPad app caught his attention. He describes it as a breakthrough for spinal cord victims, who have had limited access to information about services available.

"When you've got very limited use of your hands, upper limbs, it's hard to operate a computer. So what the app does is get you quick and easy access to relevant information related to spinal cord injuries," Mr Farrell said.

Created in collaboration with Apps-House, the app covers transport, financials, legal matters, employment, bladder care, assistance dogs, clothing, disability service providers, accessible places to visit and news about spinal cord injury.

The app builds upon Spinal Cord Industry Australia's drive to use technology to assist people with a spinal cord injury.

It is preloaded onto iPads being distributed through the Prince of Wales Hospital's spinal unit to injured patients and is available for anyone else free.

"One of the biggest problems I've faced is getting access to information," Mr Farrell said.

"Because this app is only new and they are still testing it out and taking suggestions, it's really important that the information gets out there, that people are aware of it."

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