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
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.