After a major spinal injury, this renowned GP is determined to get back to work

Doug Hendrie

24/06/2019 4:35:42 PM

A crowdfunding campaign has sprung up to help Professor Chris Del Mar transition from hospital to home.

Professor Chris Del Mar
Professor Chris Del Mar is determined to get back to his work.

In February, a world-renowned GP went for an early-morning surf before work on the Gold Coast.
But, in a freak accident, Professor Chris Del Mar was pulled unconscious from the sea and rushed to emergency. He had broken his C1 and C2 vertebrae and suffered a complete spinal cord injury.  
Following three months in ICU, he has moved into the long rehabilitation phase.
However, even with the extent of his injuries, Professor Del Mar, a global expert in antibiotic resistance and respiratory viruses, is continuing to work.
His PhD students and postdocs bring their work to his bedside at a Brisbane hospital. And he plans to be back at work next year, aided by a wheelchair and voice- or eye-activated computer.
There are, after all, research projects to oversee, grants to win, and students to mentor.
‘He’s a very inspiring man and very brave. It’s taking a ton of courage to get through this situation.’
That is Professor Del Mar’s wife Tammy Hoffman, a fellow professor at Bond University.
‘Keeping cognitively active is so important when you’re in hospital for the better part of a year,’ she told newsGP.
‘He’s hoping to get back to work some time next year and see those projects through to completion.’
News of Professor Del Mar’s injury spread quickly, with an outpouring of support from Australian and international colleagues.
‘We had quite a few colleagues who knew how expensive this would get and asked if they could help in some way,’ Professor Hoffman said.
One of those colleagues has now set up a crowdfunding campaign to make Professor Del Mar’s home wheelchair-accessible. It is also hoped the funds will be enable the purchase of a hospital bed, powered wheelchair, and the specialised computers and input devices needed for Professor Del Mar to continue working.

The GoFundMe page states that National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) rules mean Professor Del Mar will not receive any funding for the considerable home modifications necessary for him to leave hospital.
Access to funding via the NDIS is restricted to people under the age of 65, whereas Professor Del Mar turned 70 while in the ICU.  
‘He will receive limited government assistance for only some of the equipment that he needs,’ the GoFundMe page states.
Professor Hoffman said this represents a funding black hole that most people do not know exists.
‘Once you hit 65, you’re not eligible for the NDIS. And because it wasn’t a car accident, there’s no insurance scheme that would fund home modifications,’ Professor Hoffman said.
‘It’s been quite eye-opening.
‘Through this freak accident, we’ve realised some of the difficulties in the Australian landscape for disability funding.’
But Professor Hoffman said her husband does not want to turn the issue into a soapbox.
‘We had unsolicited offers from colleagues who had thought further ahead than we had and who realised how expensive it would be,’ she said.
‘Chris says he has been humbled by all of the support and the heart-warming messages. He said he can’t believe how kind and generous people have been.’
Almost $27,000 has been raised in two days, of a $300,000 target.
Support has been pouring in on social media, with doctors and researchers praising his work and influence.  

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Denis Bartrum   25/06/2019 7:31:01 AM

All the best Chris,
I am in and have approached SCCA for funds.
Hang in there mate.
Best wishes to you and family.

Gail Waterhouse   25/06/2019 11:59:40 AM

You are a bright light in the world of general practice! Best wishes to you and your family as you navigate the challenges ahead.

Rosalie Schultz   25/06/2019 12:10:34 PM

What a travesty that the NDIS does not support the care that Prof Del Mar depends on!

We should work together to advocate for a functioning disability system.

Rob Taylor   26/06/2019 12:37:10 AM

Wishing you all the best Chris for a speedy recovery.
I have always admired your sense of getting things done, and your care and concern for students.
Your passion for your work and you as an amazing individual is known and respected the world over.
If I can ever be of help please don't hesitate to let me know.
Rob (Perth W.A.).

Dr Martyn Taylor   26/06/2019 5:00:53 PM

All the best with your ongoing recovery Professor Del Mar. I will always remember, as a medical student at UQ, how well you taught us how to assess studies and interpret the has stuck with me for good!

Peter and Lex Bastable   8/07/2019 8:09:41 PM

Thinking of you Chris. We are still here in Mackay. We only found out today about your accident. Am sure you will use it to benefit others as your whole life has been on that pathway . Xxxx

Lynn laverack   21/08/2019 6:20:40 PM

Chris I worked with you in Mackay and you were amazing and helped my family. I was shocked when my daughter told me today about your accident. In my prayers lynn

Joyaa Antares   23/09/2019 12:59:27 PM

Chris - just read the news. You are very much in my thoughts.