How surfer paralysed in a car crash was able to rebuild life

How surfer paralysed in a car crash was able to rebuild life


Barney Miller was an up-and-coming surfer until a car accident changed his life in the blink of an eye  In 1999, at age 19, Barney was involved in a car accident near his hometown of Sawtell on the New South Wales coast  He was airlifted to hospital where doctor’s said he was unlikely to pull through – though after a massive fight the teenager survived  Barney left hospital in a wheelchair after doctors pronounced him a paraplegic and said he would never walk again  Fast forward two decades later and Barney, 38, has taken his first steps on his own, found the love of his life, and has even won a world surfing title   He met Kate Southwell, now 27, in a bar in his hometown in 2007 after she moved to the town from Cowra, further inland in NSW  ‘I was waiting for some friends when Barney came over and introduced himself. We started chatting and when I asked him what happened, he said he’d broken his neck in a car accident,’ Ms Southwell told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2017  ‘I knew something was special about him when I asked if his situation was a ‘forever thing’ He said, ‘No, I’m going to find a way to walk.’ His certainty was something I’d been searching for: he knew what he wanted out of life There was a spark between us.’  Barney encouraged Kate, who goes by the stage name KADA, to sing, which had been a passion of her’s since childhood  When the pair visited California for Barney’s treatment, Kate was asked to sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at a major league baseball game  When she finished singing Barney got down on one knee and proposed. The couple recently got married with Barney standing for the ceremony and even dancing at the reception  A documentary about how the couple met and Barney’s attempts to walk and surf again won the Nikon Video of the Year at the Surfing Australia Awards in 2017  The film also touches on Barney’s friendship with professional surfer Mick Fanning  His friendship with the surfing star formed around his motivation to have an ‘I told you so moment’ to those who told him he would never be able to surf again  Three time World Champion Fanning met Barney when he was skolling a pint at the Torquay pub after Fanning won the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach  The pair bonded by partying though they both say they have toned that down and live a much more health focused life now  Barney enrolled in the L.A. based Project Walk – a program that attempts to reestablish neural connections within the nervous system by focused exercises  His mate Fanning visited him at the centre and was blown away by his progress. This progress culminated in a World Surfing Title of his own in 2017 as he took out his division in the World Adaptive Surfing Championships for those with disabilities  ‘Growing up you dream of winning a World Surfing Title like that. It wasn’t the way of surfing that I expected or wanted to but win but a world title is a world title and I’m running with it ‘ he told 7 News. Barney credits much of his recovery to the support of Kate – saying if they had not met he would not be as far in his recovery and would not have achieved the amazing goals that he has  

Antonio Breitenberg

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