Builder bat­tles on

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS ETHERIDGE

A 27-YEAR-OLD’S dream of be­ing a builder has been cut short by a rare spinal dis­ease.

But Richard Hor­mon says he will still com­pete in a toplevel car­pen­try con­test, re­ly­ing on painkillers to get through.

The Unitec Mt Al­bert stu­dent was di­ag­nosed in Jan­uary with a spinal dis­ease os­teo­chon­dro­sis, which was dor­mant un­til he jarred his back in a fall.

Hor­mon says he was told by his doc­tor that he’s had ad­vanced spinal dam­age for his age and that three discs had died.

‘‘The doc­tor said ‘I don’t think the pain’s go­ing to dis­ap­pear for a while, maybe a cou­ple years’.

‘‘That was re­ally hard to take be­cause I’ve al­most fin­ished my time here,’’ the fourth-year ap­pren­tice says.

‘‘I felt robbed. That was prob­a­bly the hard­est news I’ve had so far. Soul­break­ing, re­ally.’’

Bend­ing and heavy lift­ing will make the pain worse over time, mean­ing Hor­mon runs the risk of speed­ing up the dis­ease or paral­y­sis.

He’s on painkillers so he can con­tinue work­ing to fi­nan­cially sup­port him­self.

‘‘It’s def­i­nitely re­ally hard be­cause the pain is al­ways there but it’s just what do I do? That’s all I know how to do. I need to get by.’’

Hor­mon says he is de­ter­mined to stay in the in­dus­try, and is ex­plor­ing project man­age­ment.

He is tak­ing part in the New Zealand Car­pen­try Ap­pren­tice Chal­lenge this Satur­day. Hor­mon and seven other ap­pren­tices will have eight hours to build a gar­den seat, us­ing their plan­ning, math and car­pen­try skills. Each seat will be do­nated to a hospice.

Unitec’s Joe Hede says the com­pe­ti­tion com­bats the ‘‘dummy’’ stereo­type some­times tied with car­pen­try.

Hede, man­ager of Unitec’s ap­pren­tice­ship train­ing trust, says en­trants are judged on the whole pack­age – skills and pro­fes­sional be­hav­iour – with win­ners go­ing through to the national fi­nals in Hamil­ton in June.

Young peo­ple are given a bad rep­u­ta­tion but the ap­pren­tices are hard­work­ing and tal­ented, he says.

Past com­peti­tors have built dog ken­nels, door frames and stairs, and wendy houses which were do­nated to Auck­land kinder­gartens.

Hede says 16 ap­pren­tices have en­tered this year’s event.

En­tries are open to all In­dus­try Train­ing As­so­ci­a­tion Build­ing and Cer­ti­fied Builders mem­ber ap­pren­tices.

The national win­ner gets $5000 worth of prizes, in­clud­ing an Out­ward Bound trip.

The chal­lenge is open to the public to view and takes place on April 12 from 8am to 4pm at build­ing 108 at the Unitec Mt Al­bert cam­pus.

Photo: JESS ETHERIDGE

Stu­dent per­se­veres: Richard Hor­mon, 27, was di­ag­nosed with the spinal dis­ease os­teo­chon­dro­sis in Jan­uary but is de­ter­mined to com­pete in the NZ Car­pen­try Ap­pren­tice Chal­lenge to­mor­row.

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