How many people do you know could make a living off watching surfers do their thing?
Before my accident, that was my reality.
I loved the water and felt extremely close to the ocean. In the years after high school I worked as a full-time lifeguard – working at various beaches all over the Central Coast, whilst also finding myself in the final stages of the application process to become a full-time Firefighter.
Travelling the world, getting on some of the nicest waves, making videos of the pros and more than anything, learning, growing and enjoying the process the entire time.
You see, I used to work as a videographer capturing some of the world’s top Surfers and Body Boarders. It was amazing, I was there to catch them in the action of handling world class waves. I was in the water with them – a very unique, up close and personal job that I felt extremely lucky and blessed to have.
One day – everything changed.
It was just a normal evening. Heading back from a friends party at The Haven in Terrigal, when the car we were travelling in crashed into a guardrail on the opposite side of the road.
Myself and three of my mates were in the car, myself seated in the rear passenger side.
Due to the crash, myself, along with my three other friends were transported to various hospitals.
Both my mate and I who were seated in the rear of the car were cut from the wreckage and airlifted to separate Sydney hospitals. I was taken to Westmead, with my mate taken to Royal Prince Alfred, both with life-threatening injuries. We remained in intensive care at different hospitals due to capacity for upwards of three weeks. I required one-on-one nursing and was in a critical condition for several weeks.
I can remember a certain calm and at one point my first real awareness of where I was. From ICU I still remained isolated, moving to the Brain Injury Unit in a room on my own where I remained for some time. As the weeks progressed and my health improved I would be allowed into communal areas of the unit as part of my rehab to use things such as the kitchen facilities. It was here, I would work on my fine motor skills with things such as cooking, cleaning, and activities of daily living. I am told by my family and friends that while I was still Corey from the outside – I was still moving in a semi-sedated state. This state was something I would continue in for some time.
A doctor came in, introduced themselves and went through some general questions and answers and went onto read an extensive list of injuries that I had sustained.
I had sustained fractures to my lower back, my neck, tibia, fibula and femur. I snapped my Achilles which required my leg to remain in suspension to try to lengthen and reconnect the muscle. Above all of these soft tissue injuries, I sustained neurological injuries, a head injury to the right side of my brain, with the first noticeable thing being a weakness that would affect the whole left side of my body.
It was at this moment that my entire lifestyle flashed in front of my eyes. Would I ever be able to get back into the water? Could I one day become a Firefighter? Could I ever keep up with the top surfers and capture the pictures and videos they needed to promote their lifestyle?
It took me some time to come back to the reality of what happened. It wasn’t until some of my friends and family came to visit, that I realised in its entirety what had happened and how my life was just about to change.
I’m not here to start a sob story, nor do I want any sympathy. I want people to learn about the challenges I faced and how I came to make them my strengths – using them as objects to overcome and challenge me to create a new character, perhaps, a new Corey “Pitts” Pitsillidi.