The Man That Never Quit.

By Michael Walecki

There is a man that was destined to make great changes in people’s lives. This man is someone who has seen it all. He has seen the world evolve from the simplest of times, into the big busy impatient world that we all live in today.

His heart has been forged to withstand some of the most painful challenges that any human can endure, and his character so strong that he would still walk out of the rubble ready to take on the next petty attempt of what life called “a challenge”.

This man’s name is Terry Nathan.

Griffith University student Michael with Terry

Griffith University Gold Coast student Michael with Terry

Born in a humble town from the north of New Zealand, Terry came from a family of 15 children, all raised on a farm. Terry had a wonderful childhood. Growing up on the farm and living in a full home, his mother would bake her own bread every day, and most importantly, no one was ever hungry. His family would raise their own chooks and barter them for other food that they needed: they had it all. As a teenager, he was a free-spirited boy who loved adventure. After working on the farm, all he got to do was run around and enjoy the simplicity of life. One particular day, Terry had an unbearable pain in his tooth. Terry did whatever he could in order to get the pain to stop. He took some Aspros and pinched some of his father’s tobacco and stuck it in between his gum and his tooth. Nothing. After three days straight of agonizing pain, Terry had enough. After going to both the doctor, dentist, and coming up with a few little white lies, Terry fixed his problem. The funny thing is he didn’t just take out the one tooth that hurt. He took out all his teeth! A 14- year-old toothless kid, imagine that! Terry said “I never wanted a pain like that in my life, so I figured I would take them all out. Have not had a toothache since.”

Terry ended up moving to New Plymouth and working with his brother in the agriculture industry, bulldozing bush and making land suitable for farmers. Terry had many interesting moments in that job, but there was one particular day that stuck out to him the most. Terry was clearing some bush, and one day he was working with four other men cutting down the trees and he would bulldoze them down. There were two trees that were standing over when he told them to cut them down but they were still standing up. So he decided to stop bulldozing and see why they haven’t been cut. He asked what the matter was, why couldn’t they cut the trees? They told him that they couldn’t do anything because the trees toppled onto each other and are leaning on one another. So Terry took the chainsaws and began cutting them down. Made a few cuts. Nothing. Made some more cuts. Still standing. Then as Terry continued cutting he heard a loud CRACK. All of a sudden he looked up and saw the trees were coming down. But Terry wasn’t relieved that the trees finally were falling down, because they were falling down on him! Terry dropped the saw and ran backwards, but as he did, he fell into a ditch. At that point it was too late to get up and make a run. Terry thought,”this is it…” closed his eyes, and was waiting for the gigantic tree to come crashing down and break his bones. As he was ready to take the impact, he felt a gust of wind and the shock of the tree followed by a loud crash. Other than the rustling of leaves, and the dust settling, there was complete silence. Terry opened his eyes. The only thing that he could see was the gigantic tree on top of him. The ditch that he had fallen into had saved his life. The silence was broken with the revving of chainsaws; it was the men trying to cut the tree in order to get Terry out. He left work early that day, and he concluded that it must have been “the luck of the devil.”
After his time bulldozing, Terry moved to Fiji for a little over a year, did some work in New Zealand, and then decided to make the big move over to Australia in 1974.

He moved to Australia to the town of Umina. The first house that he rented was definitely a special one. Unbeknownst to Terry, there was a little girl born in the very house that Terry lived in a long time ago. And as Terry married his wife Victoria several years later, he found out that she was the little girl! Terry’s first house that he moved in to in Australia was the house that his wife was born in!
So living in Umina, Terry worked for the council and took on many different jobs. One job he recalls very well is that the council was trying to put in draining pipes under the road but they just couldn’t do it fast enough because the hole would collapse on itself and no work could be done.

Terry decided to take matters into his own hands. By watering the walls, he made them firm, and was able to put more pipes down in a day than the council could in an entire week!

After his time in Umina, he moved to Tamworth. This was a place that Terry and his wife Victoria now call “Death Mountain”, and for a very good reason. One day in Tamworth, Terry was listening to the radio with a few friends when suddenly he heard a noise. “Something is not right” he thought. “Turn off that radio!” yelled Terry. One of his friends turned it off and in the faint distant, a scream of a little boy. Terry’s eyes widened with terror. He jolted from his seat and ran as fast as he could. Unleashed the dogs, sent them off to scare away the pigs that Terry thought were attacking the young kids. Terry and the brigade ran towards the scream, where they eventually saw a boy. ” I shot him! I shot me mate.”

A sudden shock bolted through Terry’s body and his heart began to beat out of his chest. The grass was tall and the group was far from the wounded child. They spread out and eventually found him, crying, and lying on the blood-soaked ground, with skin as white as snow. Terry could see that the bullet went through the boy’s upper leg and he needed to do something quick. With a four-wheeler following the men, they lifted him up into the car. The boy screams in pain. Terry ripped the boys’ jeans off. The boy yells even louder. Terry frantically grabs his knife, cut off the boys’ jeans, puts a stick through it and begins to twirl it, turning into a tourniquet. An agonizing yell comes from the boy. Terry becomes so frustrated with the boy’s winging and yelling so he found a way for the boy to co-operate. BANG. The grown man punched the young boy straight in the face and knocked him out like a boxer in the 12th round. The boy was driven to a hospital over 30 miles away from town, where he survived the shot. The nurses in the hospital told the boy’s parent, “If it wasn’t for that tourniquet, your son wouldn’t have made it.”

The very same night, Terry and his family were travelling when suddenly Vicky’s parent’s car ran out of petrol. Terry went underneath the car to unscrew the cap to the fuel tank so that he can put enough fuel in to get their car to the petrol station. He unscrewed the cap and the petrol began pouring down on him. The gasoline guzzled out of the tank like a hole in a sinking ship, drenching Terry’s clothes, skin, and full-grown beard. Terry put the hose in and he went to pass the cup to Vicky’s father, but he was backing away from the car. Terry was confused why he did not reach for the cup, but then he realized why. Fire. Terry was shocked and knew he had to act quickly. He could tell that the fire was coming very slow, so he thought he could beat the fire. Slithering like a snake from underneath the car, Terry looked back and saw that the fire caught the petrol, and before he knew it, he was on fire. His face was on fire, his arms were on fire, his legs were on fire, the petrol coming out of the gas tank was on fire, and Terry’s entire world was set on fire. He would cover his face to stop the flames from burning his skin off, but once he took his hands off, his face lit up on fire quicker than a pile of dry leaves. His skin began coming off of his arm every time he tried to extinguish the flames on his face, and the smell of burnt flesh began to fill the dreadful night sky. After his wife’s mother threw flour, oils, and whatever else she could find to throw onto Terry, her father wrapped him in a large blanket and dragged him across the road and into the bushes where eventually Terry was set free from his fiery prison. When Terry went to the hospital, he knew a few people who would be his “neighbors” for the time being. His wife who cut her face on a barbed wire running from the fire, his mother in law who broke her knuckles falling off a horse earlier that day, and of course, the little boy whose life he had saved in the morning. It was the wildest day of Terry’s life, but thankfully he came out only with scars.

Years passed and Terry was a hard working man, working in his shop, he was foreman for a road construction company, making extensions on the house and getting little hours of sleep. All of his hard work caught up to him one day in particular. Terry began getting headaches but didn’t tell anyone and they just got worse and worse. He began to get dizzy, started stumbling everywhere like he just drank a bottle of Scotch, and slammed onto the floor. His wife Vicky called an ambulance and Terry seemed all right, joking and laughing with the nurses. But when he got to the hospital he began to have a seizure. Terry had a stroke at the age of 47 and it was a life changing experience for the entire family. They put him on life support for seven days and he spent about 7-8 weeks in the hospital where he was later transferred to a rehabilitation center. One day Terry overheard his doctors saying, “He won’t walk again, he can’t use his left arm again”.

“Those bloody bastards…” Terry thought, and he cried thinking that this is not how he wants his life to be.

Weeks passed, and Vicky visited Terry at the rehab hospital and sat next to Terry. “You want to see something”, asked Terry. Vicky agreed, even though she had no idea what a disabled man could show her. “Just watch” said Terry with a sly grin on his face. They sat across from one another and Vicky was waiting for Terry to show her something. Nothing was happening. A few moments went by and still nothing. Vicky was still waiting, asking herself “What am I watching..”. Her thought was interrupted by a loud THUMP. Vicky could not believe the sound that made the “Thump” was Terry’s “disabled” left hand that lifted itself up and landed on top of the table. “You still watching?” asked Terry. Vicky couldn’t answer because her jaw dropped and almost hit the table just like Terry’s arm. All of a sudden, Terry lifted his arm above a hand like an eager student in a classroom, ready to answer a teacher’s question. “How did you do that? Do it again!” exclaimed Vicky. Terry lifted his hand up again and Vicky continues to be in disbelief.” But I wont do it again” said Terry.

Every night when everyone went to sleep, Terry would stay up and try to move his arm. It was extremely painful and every time he tried to move his arm, it was a step closer to him walking and living the life that he desired. Every night, in the pitch-black dark he would do it for hours and hours. Terry would want to give up, but remembered the doctors words “He will never be able to walk again”, fueled his burning desire to be free from his chains of his disability, and he would again try to move his arm. He would use his right hand as a mirror and make the left hand mimic what the right hand was doing. He ripped out the ramps and rails in his home. Terry did whatever he could to live the life that he knew he deserved. The most amazing thing about all of this, is that he did not tell anyone what he was doing, only his wife Vicky. When the so-called professionals and doctors said that this man could not function normally ever again, they were proven completely wrong when Terry walked into the hospital with his wife telling the doctors that they do not need the wheelchair anymore. Terry would eventually walk again and move his left arm with ease. Terry proves to all of us that it does not matter who you are, who you were, what you have done, or what you have plan to do, the only way to succeed and to pull through a difficult situation, even when people tell you cannot do it, is to have a burning desire for what you believe in.

Terry later travelled all of Australia for five years with his lovely wife and they settled down on the Gold Coast in Queensland, obviously to be with the grand kids. Terry now meets with friends at Runaway Bay every morning, makes and sells candles, and just recently started making his own beer. The neighbors all know Terry as the kind man in our complex, but just like nobody knew that Terry was rehabilitating himself at night when everyone was asleep, no one knows what an incredible life he has lived. If there was one thing Terry would tell anyone it’s this:

“Just be yourself and try hard do your best and that is it. You can never stop trying, no matter what you do, whether it’s right or wrong you can still try.”