WHEN Doug Henwood set off to work one morning in 2007, he didn’t expect it would change his life.
Saying goodbye to his wife Toni and daughter Nissa, he didn’t think it could be the very last time he’d see them.
But it very nearly was.
Just as he had done hundreds of times before Doug was unloading a truck but that day, fate was not on his side.
It was a job he loved and thought he could do forever — until a 300kg coil drum fell off the truck and crushed Doug.
The next thing he knew, he was in a hospital bed — his only understanding of what happened being pieced together from what family and work mates have told him.
It’s all a blur, his only clarity those third person accounts — and a doctor’s diagnosis.
The 300kg drum broke his foot, pelvis and caused a hairline fracture to his spine.
Doug thinks there must have been someone watching over him, as the drum landed millimetres from his temple and wasn’t loaded.
If the drum was loaded — at 1000kg — he wouldn’t be telling his story today.
Living in Melbourne at the time, Doug was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital and his wife Toni wasn’t far behind.
“It was the fastest trip into Melbourne I’d ever done,” she said.
“He wasn’t allowed to stand for at least three months, and so someone had to do everything for him.”
Despite the long road to recovery, Doug considered himself lucky.
Now, 11 years later, Doug owns his own handyman business and has had more than 40 jobs on the books in three months.
It was an experience which stole so much time away from him, yet you wouldn’t know it, as he smiles while he works away beside his wife and daughter in Mathoura.
“On July 20 I started working and just kept on going,” Doug said.
“It’s not major work but the main aim is to do little things like home maintenance — fixing locks, a bit of painting — just those little things some people can’t do or don’t have the time to.”
It’s difficult to picture Doug, who walks up and greets you with a smile and a handshake, in a hospital bed unable to walk.
“I still have injuries that are healing. I was on crutches up until last year,” he said.
“I think I’ve got the right attitude for the job. I’m the only one in town doing the odd jobs. Those jobs that are too small for others in town.”
Through employment agency APM in Echuca, Doug was guided through the steps to put his idea into practice.
Kerri-Ann Hamilton, an employment consultant, spent more than 12 months working with him, initially out of Deniliquin before APM shifted to Echuca.
“With Doug it was about looking at any transferrable skills he had to find employment in other areas.” Kerri-Ann said.
“Doug got to the point where he began talking to locals and found out they needed people to do odd jobs. Things like mowing lawns, but it grew from there.
“He’s now able to employ his daughter and himself on a payroll. And his wife Toni is helping out with the bookwork.”
Kerri-Ann said working with Doug, they were able to point him in the right direction after what was a traumatic event.
“The transformation from when he first came to us is incredible — it was like he’d been kicked in the guts. But now, he’s bright, bubbly and smiling every time I see him,” Kerri-Ann said.
“That’s what it’s about, working one-on-one with clients to get back out into the community and supporting them in the following months.
“Primarily it’s about raising self-esteem, and I can see that in Doug. He’s passionate about helping people.
“He’s struck gold (in his current business), but more importantly, he’s happy and has something to do.”
A part of the Mathoura Men’s Shed and CFA, Doug said he’s all about community.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about giving back, rather than taking and just getting on with life,” he said.
“Kerri and everyone at APM have been fantastic — just spot-on. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have got to here.
“It (the job I had) was a good job and I really enjoyed it. But after I got hurt, that was it.”
Doug said he couldn’t have done it without the support of family and the team at APM Echuca.
“My wife Toni and daughter Nissa have been amazing,” he said.
“I’ve been given a second chance. No doubt about it.”