Dane Cross has two young sons and a loving wife Stacey. They’re home and business owners, regular beach goers, passionate fisher-people, community advocates and so much more. Together they live life to the fullest – all documented via their vlog and social media accounts [Youtube: Cross_Family_Adventures, Instagram: @cross_family_adventures] – and their story is as fun as it is inspiring … Dane sustained a spinal cord injury in 2001, resulting in complete quadriplegia (C5).
Recently, just days after his 39th birthday, we tapped Dane on the shoulder to hear about his life as the father/husband/son/brother/cousin/uncle of an inter-abled family, as well as his experience as a Plan Managed NDIS Participant.
How did you and Stacey meet?
Stacey and I met at work, in 2008 (7 years after my injury). We worked in the same office; Stacey in her role as HR Officer and me as a Grants Manager. Stacey was always the bubbly type, who would lift the mood of the room just by bringing her personality. To her, I was her sounding board; someone who would lend her an ear after a long day. It wasn’t until 2010 though that we became close and, eventually, hit it off romantically.
People are often taken aback when they learn that we met after my injury. It’s a stigma that we’re definitely trying to shake. “Yes, people with disability can actually have a successful relationship!”
How old are your kids?
We have two sons, Ashton and Dawson. Ashton is 6 years old and Dawson is 2. Both of our boys were conceived via IVF, which was a physical and emotional rollercoaster (especially for Stacey). I’ll be forever grateful for what Stacey went through to give us our two boys. They’re definitely our greatest “achievements.”
Where do you call home?
We live on Brisbane’s bayside and have the greatest little community surrounding us. Our neighbours are brilliant!
Let’s rewind … can you tell us briefly about your injury and the process of rehabilitation you took to get set up at home initially?
On 11 August 2001, I went into hospital having suffered a devastating spinal cord injury (C5). I had been playing Touch Football in the local competition at Southport (Gold Coast). It was grand final day and I was playing for our university side (Griffith University – Gold Coast). My Mum, Dad and girlfriend (at the time) were all in the crowd, so it was pretty traumatic for everyone to see me take the fateful dive towards the try line, collecting my opponent’s knees mid-flight and fracturing my C5 vertebrae. My dad was actually first on scene. Being a Paramedic, he immediately assumed the “medic” role. Unfortunately though, there’s not much one can do for a crushed spinal cord!
The next 6 months were spent in the Spinal Injuries Unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane. I had amazing support from my family and friends during my stay, which definitely helped me to maintain a positive outlook on life during my rehabilitation.
When I rolled out of the hospital 6 months later, while I had gained some strength in my upper arms, I was still completely dependent upon the use of a wheelchair and still without the use of my hands and fingers.
Needless to say, life outside of the hospital was a lot different to what it was before I went in. I moved back home to my parent’s house and remained in their care. They had to renovate our home to make it more accessible and the only personal support made available to me at the time was a visit from a community nurse every second day who tended to my routine toileting and showering needs.
Obviously, my injury was “life changing”, importantly though, it was not “life-ending.” I credit my support during that time, along with my own positive approach to life post-injury, for enabling me to continue to live out my dreams and to continue to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life.
In 2001, the NDIS wasn’t in existence – what were your options for assistance at that point in time?
As I mentioned earlier, the only support I received after leaving the hospital was a visit from a community nurse every second morning to help me with toileting and showering… The sad thing was, I was one of the lucky ones! There were some people who left that hospital at the same time who didn’t even receive that! It was debilitating in so many ways and basically took away any chance at independence. Of course, I had my family and friends who did everything they could to support me but, without individual or personal support, I wasn’t able to feel “independence” in the true sense of the word.
Give us a dot-point highlight of your life since …
- August 2001: sustained a spinal cord injury
- February 2002: left hospital to face the big wide world
- October 2003: graduated university (after deferring studies during my rehabilitation)
- January 2004: obtained enough personal support funding through Disability Service Queensland to move out of home (yet my parents were still required to assist me into bed each night, fortunately I only lived 5 minutes away)
- March 2004: commenced volunteer work for PCYC Queensland
- July 2004: commenced casual paid employment for PCYC Queensland
- July 2006: commence part-time/permanent employment with PCYC Queensland
- July 2008: commenced full-time employment with PCYC Queensland as Grants Manager
- September 2008: met Stacey at work for the first time
- May 2010: purchased my first house
- May 2010: started dating Stacey
- August 2010: travelled around Europe (without Stacey, I’d already booked!)
- August 2011: travelled around Europe (with Stacey, she “made” me go back 😉 Haha!)
- July 2012: “popped the question” (engaged to Stacey)
- December 2012: caught my first marlin (I’m a mad keen fisherman, I had to throw that in there)
- April 2013: birth of our first son, Ashton (it’s up there with catching my first marlin 😉)
- August 2013: purchased our first investment property
- May 2014: married Stacey
- September 2014: honeymooned in Hawaii
- September 2015: holidayed in Fiji
- December 2015: purchased our “family home”
- February 2017: established our Disability Access Consulting business, Inclusive Access Solutions
- March 2017: birth of our second son, Dawson
- June 2018: started sharing our “Cross_Family_Adventures” via social media (Instagram and YouTube)
- August 2018: commencement of my first NDIS plan
- February 2019: was funded through NDIS for our 4×4 car modification, allowing me to access the beach for the first time in years!
- May 2019: commenced employment with Spinal Life Australia as an Advocacy Officer, heading up a campaign for Inclusive/Accessible Tourism
- June 2019: added to my employment with Spinal Life Australia as a Peer Support Officer
- July 2019: NDIS funded the purchase of an off-road wheelchair attachment, a Freedom Trax, enabling me independent access to the beach to play and interact independently with my children, on the sand, for the first time!!!
As an inter-abled family, what are some challenges you face on a regular basis, and how have you overcome them?
At the risk of sounding negative, I think our biggest challenge as an inter-abled family is “keeping it real”. We struggle with finding a balance between giving our boys the same/similar experiences that we had as children (in able-bodied families) and doing too much and burning out.
I work a full-time job, plus run a business and juggle two casual jobs on the side. Stacey works two part-time jobs on top of her full-time gig of being a mum and the most amazing wife anyone could ask for. Everyday life is hectic enough; throw the disability into the mix and things can start to take its toll.
Holidays are particularly challenging. We can’t really afford to pay for flights/ accommodation for carers so, more often than not, we end up doing it “alone” (without personal support). Unfortunately, this means that Stacey ends up doing all of the packing and unpacking, as well as all of my personal care. So our “holidays” are actually more challenging than our daily routine, particularly for Stace.
The irony is, our holidays and adventures are what our Cross_Family_Adventures are based upon! I guess it’s how we overcome these challenges is what makes it interesting and why people choose to watch and follow what we do.
For us, overcoming challenges basically comes down to determination, mixed with a bit of innovation. We’re a pretty determined couple. Not letting my disability get in the way of us living a fun and fulfilling life is a determination that Stacey and I (fortunately) both share. So we persevere. We come up with ways to make my personal care routine more streamlined. We also have some pretty cool pieces of assistive technology (i.e. my Spinergy ZX-1 and Freedom Trax). Our cars have been modified to help get me in/out without need for additional help.
At the end of the day, it’s about thinking outside the box and coming up with ways to make the challenging less challenging.
What has been your experience with the NDIS, and how long have you been a participant?
I’ve just had my second year plan approved and I’ve been pretty happy with how things have worked out. In the first year I managed to receive enough supports to enable me to maintain my employment and to live an active and healthy lifestyle. I also managed to get some car modifications and a motorised beach wheelchair approved, so I’ve been pretty happy with it so far.
I did have a few delays and some other issues but I’m putting them down to a learning process. You hear a lot negative stories about the NDIS and, to be honest, before I became a participant, I was pretty apprehensive. With anything though, you learn as you go. I’ve made a few small changes to my second year, so hopefully my second year goes even better than my first!
We understand you’ve chosen to partly manage your NDIS plan and assigned a Plan Manager to manage the rest. Can you offer some insight as to why you chose this path?
Well, for my new plan, I’ve actually switched to being completely Plan Managed! I did try to Self Manage some elements in my first plan but I’ve handed it all to my Plan Manager this year.
I just find that it’s easier to let the Plan Managers handle the finances. I’m really switched on with that kind of stuff but the NDIS is a huge beast and, until they iron out all of their creases, it’s pretty hard to keep up with the changes. I’d prefer to leave it to the professionals and just get on with my life. I still have choice and control; they just make it easier to manage the finance side.
And, what benefits have you seen having a Plan Manager?
As I said, I tried Self Managing but I found that managing the budget, paying invoices, then going through the NDIS claim process was just another “thing” in our already hectic lives. It’s comforting to have your Plan Manager there, keeping up with the changes in the NDIS space, directing spend, monitoring your budget, paying the bills, etc. It just takes a load off.
If you chose one piece of feedback to offer the NDIS, what would it be?
Employ more staff! The delays and mistakes aren’t happening because the NDIS staff are sitting around twiddling their thumbs, it’s because they’re drowning in a sea of reports and applications. I think also their needs to be support offered to people before going into their plan meetings so that they know what to expect, they go in prepared, and come out at the other end with a plan that meets their needs and requirements.
5-10 words of advice for the world…
My dad taught me a lot of things but I’ve always related well to this one; “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
If you’d like to follow the Cross Family Adventures, you really should:
While you’re at it, here’s a sample worth a watch …
[yotuwp type=”videos” id=”zJ8aqHKn2ho” ]
For more about Dane’s work with Inclusive Access Solutions, head to their website: http://www.inclusiveaccess.com.au
Or check them out on Instgram (@inclusiveaccesssolutions) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/inclusiveaccesssolutions/).
NDSP is a NDIS registered provider specialising in NDIS Plan Management. If you are a NDIS Participant looking for the right Plan Manager, CLICK HERE to get in touch with our friendly team today.