Busy mixture of work and sport
In 1999 Dan Buckingham was 18 and having the year of his life, living in halls at the University of Otago.
Life changed forever after an accident during a casual game of rugby with some mates.
‘‘The weight of the opposing pack pushed through . . . the weight of eight guys, something had to give and it was my neck.’’
He woke up as a C-6/7 paraplegic in intensive care at Dunedin Hospital.
He celebrated his birthday in hospital with a keg with friends, then spent three months recovering at a spinal unit in Christchurch.
Although life was going to be different, rugby stayed the same.
‘‘I initially wanted to get back into uni, but life was hard and wheelchair rugby was my saving grace,’’ the 33-year-old says.
He continued studying in Dunedin, but spent a lot of time travelling to Christchurch to play wheelchair rugby.
‘‘Being with guys who had been through what I went through meant I didn’t need to reinvent the world. I wanted to do what they were doing,’’ he says.
The Pt Chevalier resident has been playing for the New Zealand Wheel Blacks wheelchair rugby team for 14 years and says it takes a lot of commitment.
An obvious highlight was winning gold at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
‘‘Leading up to the games was 18 months of hard work. People might have forgotten . . . but we still carry the knowledge what we did was phenomenal . . . much greater than the gold medal,’’ he says.
Buckingham went on to study sport science and journalism. When Attitude Pictures filmed a documentary about the Wheel Blacks, he asked for a job.
He started at the bottom and has worked in nearly every corner of the production company, from researching to reporting to postproduction and is now AttitudeLive.com’s online producer.
The Attitude Awards came about as a way to celebrate the achievements of New Zealanders living with a disability.
A black-tie gala event is held every year on December 3, which is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
‘‘Opinion leaders have the ability to change mindsets and really make a difference,’’ Buckingham says.
‘‘It’s about always going back to the ethos that [people with disabilities] want to do more, we can do more, help us do more.’’
After a few hectic years, he went backpacking around Europe by himself. It was a time to reflect and centre his life again.
‘‘You appreciate the challenge and being able to work it out. I’ve done it several times and it’s learning that there’s always a way around obstacles,’’ he says.
His life is a constant balancing act between work and sport, so what keeps him going?
‘‘I want to do it for myself and travelling as a reporter is awesome. But when I see other people doing what they do, I want to be able to achieve the same things.
‘‘And for my team-mates, guys who put in so much dedication and help them the same way I was helped,’’ he says.
‘‘When there’s something in the world that’s bigger than yourself and you do it, there’s great satisfaction.’’
Double life: Dan Buckingham is on the national wheelchair rugby team and also works as as a producer at Attitude Pictures.
Go to aucklandcityharbournews. co.nz and click latest edition to watch the Wheel Blacks.