Greg Buckley’s journey from a catastrophic football injury to becoming a Clinical Dementia Specialist is an inspiring testament to resilience and purpose. Greg’s life took a dramatic turn during a Friday night football game at Belmore Oval in 1988 when a heavy tackle left him unconscious. A Careflight Helicopter airlifted him to the hospital after an hour on the ground, where he spent the next three weeks in a coma.
Emerging from the coma with only the ability to open and close his eyes, Greg faced the daunting task of relearning everything – from walking and talking to basic tasks like using utensils.
The story took a positive turn when Greg woke up on Grand Final day in 1988 to learn that his team, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, had won. This victory provided a ray of hope amid his recovery.
Although Greg had initially aspired to be a physical education teacher he didn’t quite get the marks, so chose nursing instead, which he commenced along with his scholarship at the Bulldogs and dream of being a professional footballer.
Graduating as a Registered Nurse just two-and-a-half years after his injury was an exceptional accomplishment, especially as Greg’s initial path to a football career was derailed.
Greg’s nursing journey began at various hospitals in Sydney, where he encountered individuals in rehabilitation wards who were on their own paths to recovery, including some who he had met during his own stay.
A course with HammondCare sparked his interest in dementia care, which eventually became his passion. His work at HammondCare evolved from a Registered Nurse to an Educator and Quality Manager, and he developed a profound commitment to improving the lives of those living with dementia.
Joining Uniting ACT in 2011 marked a new chapter in Greg’s journey. Starting at Uniting’s Mirinjani Canberra facility, tending to 64 beds in the dementia ward, Greg felt an immediate connection to the place and pays tribute to the support he received from Uniting’s Service Manager, Sharon Kickett, who he has worked under for the past 12 years.
Greg’s dedication and compassion have made a profound impact in an area of healthcare that requires sensitivity and understanding, something he can relate to.
“When I was studying nursing before the accident I thought I’d end up working in A&E, Flying Doctors or doing amazing things like jumping out of a helicopter to save people,” he said.
“The real stuff is working in aged care, making a difference in people’s lives every single day – helping people who don’t know who they are. These are the people who built our society, the builders, doctors, solicitors and teachers.”
Greg is also receiving calls from the football community who are going through their own challenges with dementia, with former players and their families reaching out to Greg for guidance and support.
On Saturday (5th August) Greg marked 35 years since the accident. His story serves as an inspiration to others, encouraging them to find strength and purpose in the face of adversity and to create meaningful impacts in the lives of others – qualities that also exist in many of the aged care workers being celebrated today…
Check out the ACCPA website for more stories about Aged Care Employees and the difference they make – accpa.asn.au/aged-care-employee-day