“If you want to live, it has to be done. There are plenty of people who will help make sure you're able to get around and organise prosthetics. At the end of the day, it’s a case of if you don't, you'll probably die.”
At the age of 5, Brad was diagnosed with juvenile onset Type 1 diabetes. Brad has faced a lifetime of health complications, including losing both his legs below the knee. And yet remarkably, he refuses to give up and has remained incredibly positive through it all.
Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Brad’s parents were able to manage his diabetes with daily needle injections. This allowed him to be active and enjoy doing the same things as his two older brothers.
“I played plenty of sport,” remembers Brad. “As I got older, I was a great cricketer playing representative cricket for Sutherland in my teenage years. I also played soccer and baseball, and because we grew up in Cronulla there was always the ocean and swimming and surfing.”
After Brad finished school, he moved to Batemans Bay on the NSW South Coast with his parents. He became a retail butcher and accredited master butcher, a rare achievement that he is especially proud of. He also met and married the love of his life, Lorae, and they have a son.
Life was great and Brad thought he was managing well, until the long-term effects of his type 1 diabetes began to take their toll.
“In about 1996 I showed signs of vision deterioration and some kidney disease, and I was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy disease. Over the next couple of years I had over six thousand laser shots on each eye to stem the haemorrhaging of my retinas. That saved my central vision, but took my peripheral vision.”
Sure enough, a few years later while trying to renew his driver licence, Brad was told he could no longer drive. At the same time, a routine round of blood tests showed his kidney disease had become a lot further advanced.
Devastated, Brad was forced to give up his career as a butcher that he loved so much.
“I had no driver licence and end stage renal failure. And so I had to tell my employer I was now legally blind and had kidney disease, so I couldn't be a butcher anymore. And then my kidneys failed and it got to the point where I had to have emergency dialysis.”
Determined to make the best of things, Brad tried to stay as active as possible. But in 2002 he developed circulation issues that were diagnosed as peripheral artery disease (PAD). Soon after, his doctors had no choice but to amputate his left leg below the knee.
“I felt so good. I’d been feeling so off for so long, but the transplants went well and I was just feeling lucky to be alive and getting back to feeling healthy, and well again.”
It was an enormous relief in many ways, however it was not enough to stop the extreme physical deterioration that is commonly associated with his condition.
“It was early in 2008 and I was feeling so well and active. One afternoon I took my left leg off and my right shoe and sock off, when Lorae said to me, ‘What's happened with that little toe?’. It had gone black.
“I was certain that it was already too late to do anything, but we went straight to our GP. He was devastated for us both – we had been his patient for several years. I had my right little toe amputated and the doctors then tried to save my foot, but in the end I had my right leg below the knee amputated as well.”
“When it comes down to it, there's no going back. You'll look back to remember things and it makes you stronger to go forward. You must always take the attitude that this is happening for a reason, and I'm still here to talk about it.
“It’s not always going to be fine, happy days. There will always be harder days… but the glass is always half full.”
How is HRI helping?
HRI is tackling the urgent problem of cardiovascular diseases such as PAD from a broad range of research angles.
Our Vascular Complications Group is investigating alternative approaches to stimulate new blood vessel networks to bypass blockages and restore the blood flow necessary for tissue survival. These findings will reduce the devastating impact of vascular diseases in people.