Making a difference to young lives from his wheelchair

Dylan Welch with his mother Gai and sister Shayna
Dylan Welch with his mother Gai and sister Shayna

Accepting a lift from a friend’s father only a few kilometres from home in Moss Vale changed Dylan Welch’s life.

Sitting on the console, crammed between the seats in a ute, Dylan didn’t stand a chance when the car skidded and hit a dam wall and then a tree.

That was in January 2009 and Dylan was 15-years-old.

When he got out of hospital and rehabilitation it was September, he was a quadraplegic and the rest of his life lay ahead of him.

“It was really hard at first, it’s better now … I have lifetime care as a result of the accident and have six carers, one of whom comes for eight hours most days – they stretch my muscles and we go out and do stuff.”

Now living at Eungai Rail and confined to his chin-driven wheelchair, one thing Dylan has got involved in is the P.A.R.T.Y program, Prevention of Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth, which is based in Royal North Shore Hospital and runs outreach courses in regional hospitals.

Dylan and Maura in conversation as part of the P.A.R.T.Y program

Dylan and Maura in conversation as part of the P.A.R.T.Y program

Coordinator Maura Desmond said P.A.R.T.Y was started 30 years ago in Canada by nurses sick of seeing youth dead or injured as a result of preventable incidents.

“They came up with this program that exposes that age group to the consequences of risky behaviour as a way of helping to reduce it,” Maura said.

The one-day program takes students from local schools into the Emergency Department, Intensive Care and Rehabilitation Units … and the morgue. 

In regional hospitals local health staff, paramedics and police talk to the groups about the harsh realities of poor choices.

“The kids hear from trauma patients in the ward and they meet a survivor – in this case, Dylan,” she said.

“We have funding to run eight courses a year in Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie and we have groups of about 50 kids at a time.”

Maura was one of the team who cared for Dylan after the accident and got in touch with him through his doctor to ask if he was interested in being involved.

“I’d already enrolled in a public speaking course and this sounded like an interesting thing to do,” Dylan said.

“You can see the impact the course has on the students … we talk about my daily routine, what my carers have to do for me.

“I tell them to look after each other – if it saves the life of one of them then it is worthwhile.”