How i make it work... MAX BURT

IN 1999, MAX WAS HIT BY A FIRE EN­GINE AS HE DROVE HOME FROM WORK. HE SUF­FERED CAT­A­STROPHIC IN­JURIES WHICH LEFT HIM SE­VERELY DIS­ABLED. NOW, AT 51 AND IN A WHEEL­CHAIR, HE HAS RE­BUILT HIS LIFE

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Travel - Stel­lar picks En­tries are open now for the 2017 Syd­ney Skinny; thesyd­neyskinny.com.au.

Ihad a very priv­i­leged up­bring­ing in Lon­don. We lived in a nice part of town and when I left univer­sity, went into ad­ver­tis­ing and ended up do­ing re­ally well.

When I was 34, my life stopped dead in its tracks. I was driv­ing home from work one evening when a fire en­gine hit me side-on as I was go­ing through a green light. I hadn’t been to the pub. I wasn’t speed­ing. I wasn’t break­ing any law. The fire en­gine, which was full of wa­ter and weighed about 14 tonnes, was speed­ing and pushed me up the street to the next set of lights. I don’t re­mem­ber a thing about the crash.

Iron­i­cally, an­other fire crew cut me out of the wreck­age. I was in a coma for a cou­ple of weeks and was lucky to be alive. I had a lot of in­ter­nal in­juries; I lost my spleen and my liver was lac­er­ated. I broke lots of bones, in­clud­ing my pelvis. But the bang on my head was the worst as I lost co­or­di­na­tion. Be­cause of that, I have slurred speech and am not able to stand up, walk, write or do up buttons.

I spent 10 months in hos­pi­tal and, to this day, I need con­stant help to live, which is dif­fi­cult. I can’t say what the hard­est part of my re­cov­ery has been. I’ve spent two-thirds of my adult life in a wheel­chair. If I could get one thing back, it would be my in­de­pen­dence. It’s not just be­ing able to walk or wipe my butt; it’s more than that. But I’ve also learnt strate­gies to over­come my blues. It helps that I like my own com­pany and I’m happy with my­self. I am a very dif­fer­ent per­son now. I think I used to com­pli­cate life and I’ve come to re­alise how im­por­tant the sim­ple things are.

I fell in love with my Aus­tralian carer, Jus­tine, and we got mar­ried and moved to Syd­ney to­gether in 2011. We started a char­ity called Whee­leasy to try to make it eas­ier for wheel­chair users and their fam­i­lies to get out­doors and to the beach.

I’ve swum in the Syd­ney Skinny [the an­nual nude ocean swim] since it

started in 2013. For me, it wasn’t about tak­ing my clothes off. I wanted to do it be­cause it’s a clear demon­stra­tion of a wheel­chair user’s in­te­gra­tion into so­ci­ety. It’s a bit hairy be­ing car­ried into the wa­ter by five burly life­guards with their kit on, but I feel great af­ter the swim. It all goes back to my desire for in­de­pen­dence; if I want to swim around naked in the sea, then I will.

Pe­ruse LOUIS VUIT­TON’S new menswear col­lec­tion at its pop-up store in Syd­ney. Un­til Dec 18; louisvuit­ton.com.

Give a UNICEF IN­SPIRED GIFT to help dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren and their com­mu­ni­ties; unicef.org.au.

On now in Can­berra; nga.gov.au.

$24.99; fat­brad.com.

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