“I’d raced motocross for 11 years, had a state title for BMX, I played off a 4 handicap at golf. I was very sporty,” recalls Kim Graham. “So to suddenly discover I had this thing called MS was a kick in the guts.”
Kim lives in the small Wheatbelt town of Kondinin and has been living with multiple sclerosis since 2001. He was initially diagnosed when pins and needles started to spread through his legs. These days, he’s lost use of his legs completely and relies on a wheelchair to get around. Kim is keen to point out that – being a devoted Fremantle Dockers fan – his wheelchair is purple.
A country boy through-and-through, Kim spent most of his days working on farms. He now lives in the local retirement village, with a care worker who comes in to help him to dress, shower and do chores. “I’m 6ft 4in, so when your legs don’t work they just get in the way.”
“I’ve always been in the bush,” explains Kim. “When I was a young bloke, I came to Perth for four months to work at Cottesloe Golf Course. I realised I hated the city – I’d blow my paycheck before the weekend was over. There were too many women and too many pubs!”
Now in his fifties, Kim’s trademark good-humour and charisma are still going strong. He is a popular and regular visitor to MSWA’s Margaret Doody Respite House in City Beach. “I like talking to the other residents. The first time I came here I was booked for three weeks, but they kept me here for six because I’m good value!”
“And the people here are really nice and helpful. The chefs are great – Annette cooks the most amazing food! When I’m at home, food isn’t much of a priority for me.”
On his last visit to Margaret Doody House, MSWA staff arranged for him to try the ParaGolfer chair at Wembley Golf Course. Kim explains how it felt to swing a golf stick for the first time in 20 years. “It felt wicked,” he says with a grin. “I had tears in my eyes.”
“I’ve still got my old golf sticks in the living room. I clean them regularly, and I’ll look at them and say ‘one day I’ll get to swing you again’.”
However, Kim is realistic about the future. “The MS is getting worse. It’s harder and harder to live by myself. I find it harder every day to do things. It’s gonna happen,” he says, speaking about the possibility of supported accommodation.
Kim’s sister Nicole lives on a farm near Bluff Knoll, so when she heard that MSWA was building a new $7m residential facility in Albany for people living with neurological conditions, she began making enquiries about getting Kim on the waitlist for one of the 10 high-support accommodation units that will be available in 2022.
Pending NDIS approval, Kim could soon move into his own unit, with access to onsite 24/7 support, as well being next door to MSWA’s newest state-of-the-art Services Centre. The thought of such easy access to physiotherapy, the Outreach group, nursing and occupational therapy is comforting to Kim. “You don’t get nothing like that in the bush,” he explains. “There’s no one in Kondinin who can do physiotherapy for my condition. And at the Kondinin Hospital, all the handrails are too low because they don’t get many 6ft 4in blokes in wheelchairs coming in!”
The milder Albany summers and being closer to his sister and her family are also a draw for him.
Whilst Kim is saddened by the thought of leaving his close-knit community, he is grateful that a move to high-support accommodation in Albany might be possible, and that MSWA can continue to support him in the years to come. He winks as he says, “Tell ‘em to paint one room purple and I’ll have that one!”
If you're interested in finding out more about residential respite, high-support accommodation facilities or other services offered by MSWA, call us on 1300 097 989 or fill in the form below.