Nathan returns to work after life-changing event

Nathan Stapleton is in a wheelchair outdoors at a farm with his two sons sitting on his lap
Image: Nathan Stapleton is in a wheelchair outdoors at a farm with his two sons sitting on his lap.

Nathan Stapleton is a former professional National Rugby League (NRL) player who last played for the London Broncos in the Kingstone Press Championship. He has previously played for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in the NRL.

In April 2022, Nathan was playing country rugby when an injury broke his neck and damaged his spinal cord at the C4 level of his cervical vertebrae. Nathan was unconscious for 16 minutes and acquired quadriplegia from the incident.

Nathan’s life changed dramatically that day, as the incident impacted his functional capacity below the shoulders. Nathan’s resilience and motivation were obvious to his family and medical support team. Nathan focused on his family, “I love my boys, and I love my wife, so I didn’t want to miss out on that,” said Nathan.

Nathan is a husband to his wife, Kate, and a father to two young boys. After an intense eight-month recovery process in a hospital in Sydney, Nathan could go home. He and his family have recently based themselves in Young, NSW.

The next stage of Nathan’s journey began: returning to work as a farm manager. Nathan works at Ballyhooley, a sheep and cattle station, and Nathan and his family also reside on the property.

Nathan’s role has various responsibilities. It includes leading and managing employees, operating accounting software and managing fertiliser programs. He is also responsible for planting, yield estimation, harvesting and other production activities. Stock trading via trips to sale yards or online and organising and managing contractors also fall within Nathan’s scope of work.

Nathan faced challenges in getting back to work, including being unable to access the farm safely, operate sheds and machinery, open access gates, drive on the property and to the sales yards, and photograph stock.

The hospital that supported Nathan through his recovery suggested he get in touch with JobAccess.

Nathan connected with JobAccess Professional Adviser Pietro Condidorio, who sought to understand what equipment and modifications could support Nathan in getting back to work at full capacity as a farm manager.

After the assessment and approval process, JobAccess funded supports for Nathan through the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF). This included an Eyegaze Edge, which allows Nathan to operate his computer with eye movement.

JobAccess also provided Nathan with a hands-free microphone and a telescopic floor mount to position his communication devices around his chair.

“The supports have really helped! The communication with JobAccess was always clear and prompt,” said Nathan.

This equipment helps Nathan in doing his role, focusing on succeeding at work and providing for his family. “Getting out and getting some fresh air” keeps Nathan going.

Talk to us about workplace adjustments.

There is a wide range of support available from JobAccess for people with disability, employers, and service providers.

JobAccess has managed over 67,000 applications for funding workplace adjustments since 2006. Each one makes a difference by helping people with disability get work, keep work, and progress their careers.

Contact JobAccess on 1800 464 800 to speak to our friendly and resourceful Advisers about workplace adjustments and the Employment Assistance Fund.

You can also submit an online enquiry through the JobAccess website.

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