Bill’s Team co-ordinator Sharon Holmes with Bill Hawkins at his home in Goonellabah.
Bill’s Team co-ordinator Sharon Holmes with Bill Hawkins at his home in Goonellabah.

Lifesavers for a brave young man

Many organisations need volunteers and, while there are countless worthy causes out there, there are few volunteer roles where you’re actually helping to keep someone alive.

Bill’s Team is a band of volunteers who provide physical assistance to Bill Hawkins, a Goonellabah man who’s been unable to move his limbs since he suffered a brain injury in a car accident 19 years ago.

Bill’s Team volunteer co-ordinator Sharon Holmes explained that Bill has what’s called ‘locked-in syndrome’ where he can comprehend everything going on around him but cannot move or communicate. The band of volunteers helps with daily exercises so his limbs don’t waste away.

“He had the accident in 1990 – he was 19 at the time and in the navy, just getting out there and enjoying life,” Sharon explained. “He was coming home to see his parents before his first trip to sea when he had the accident. The car was just a crumpled piece of metal… it was unbelievable. Bill hardly had a scratch or bruise on him but he was in a coma for a few months and when he woke up he was in a locked-in state.”

Sharon explained how Bill was to be placed in a facility until a visionary doctor told his parents that they could care for him at home if they chose.

“Jim and Lindy (Bill’s parent) are incredible people – they are up on a pedestal for me,” Sharon said. “As well as exercising his limbs and keeping him active, the volunteers come and chat and joke, and bring the outside world into Bill. They give him the physical help he needs but also important mental stimulation.”

Sharon has been co-ordinating Bill’s Team for six years and stressed that any volunteers who do come on board can give as much or as little time as they like.

“We’re very flexible – some people come once a week, some people once a fortnight,” she said. “If you can’t make it one week then there’s no dramas. We encourage people to come and give it a go and see if it suits them, but there’s no pressure or obligation to stay on.

“I haven’t met a volunteer yet that I don’t like – they’re all very special people and I’ve made some really good friends. We have fun, we chat and laugh, and while it can be challenging and frustrating at times, knowing we’re helping Bill and making life easier for him is very rewarding.”

For more information or to join Bill’s Team, phone Sharon on 0412 246 629.


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