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Dick digging his new direction
Late 2013 and Fentons Creek Captain Dick Stephenson was cleaning the fire station in preparation for the official handover of their new tanker when he “didn’t feel right; the back of my head wasn’t right”.
It was the onset of a stroke.
“I called across to some neighbours,” says Dick, “then lay down and put my feet up. They did first aid and called for the ambo from St Arnaud.
“I was taken to Bendigo then had a helicopter ride to Melbourne that I know nothing about. I had a sleep for five weeks. I looked like dying and they wanted to use me for spare parts but my family said no.”
This was followed by more than one and a half years of rehabilitation, and Dick, now 55, is heading back for another stint to further improve his mobility.
“I’m not 100 per cent and I’m worse when I’m tired,” he says and now only has vision in one eye.
His volunteering, however, hasn’t flagged. While he’s stepped down as captain, he’s now the brigade’s safety officer and communications officer.
“I also mentor younger members,” continues Dick. “Last week I was asked if I wanted to be captain again but I said I had too much on.”
While considering becoming a volunteer instructor, Dick has also been nominated by Operations Manager Peter Taylor to become a peer and will begin training later this year.
“I couldn’t think of anyone more suited to the peer role,” says Peter. “Dick has demonstrated repeatedly that he has the capacity to listen, respect others and empathise with others.”
Dick has been nominated for an Inspire Awards®, an initiative of the Funds in Court (of the Supreme Court of Victoria) with the support of the Transport Accident Commission, Women with Disabilities Victoria and the Portland House Foundation.
The Victorian awards recognise a person 18 years or older who has a disability and is well respected in their field of work/interest and community.
This year CFA has been given its own award category – Best Achievement Award in the Country Fire Authority.
The stroke came out of the blue as far as Dick was concerned. Friday he was running a shearing school. Sunday he had a stroke.
“But it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he says. “It got me off the grog, out of shearing and into my own earthmoving business with Dickie’s digger. I’ve met a lot of really nice people and been given a second chance at life. Thanks to all the doctors and nurses who gave me that opportunity.
“The district office has been bloody magnificent and so have the brigade and the community.”
While Dick has recently broken up with his wife Carol, he praises her and his two sons Mitchell and Rex for their support and care.
The Inspire Awards ceremony is on Wednesday 26 April 2017.