AFTER spending almost a decade recovering from a severe back injury, Northern Rivers police Sergeant Mat Johnson has been awarded for his resilience and determination.
Despite several setbacks and the stigma of remaining on duty as an injured officer, Sgt Johnson stuck it out and recently returned to general duties.
WorkCover awarded Sgt Johnson a NSW SafeWork Award during a ceremony at Sydney Olympic Park on Wednesday night.
The humble officer spoke to The Northern Star in the hope his story could motivate others to return to work following injury.
Sgt Johnson said he originally injured his back as a weapons trainer at the Goulburn police academy 12 years into his career, which led to his difficult journey.
"There was a series of reoccurring injuries that went on from that," he said
"Then there was a violent arrest out at Nimbin.
"A violent offender came to the station after committing some pretty heinous offences and was under the influence of certain substances.
"(He was) difficult to control and resulted in me hurting my lower back again."
Sgt Johnson said he struggled with "the issue of identity" throughout his recovery.
"I had to get my head around that, as well as handle the pain and whether I could look after my family financially," he said.
"Once I accepted the injury, then it was a matter of let's get on with it, let's fix it and make it better."
Sgt Johnson said his ongoing recovery would not have been possible without the support of his family, friends, surgeons and colleagues.
He is now the Richmond Local Area Command education development officer and works operational shifts in the field as a general duties supervising sergeant.
"I used to dream about coming back and being operational again," he said.
"I never thought it would happen, but with the operation I had, and all the support and rehabilitation, I'm back.".
Sgt Johnson wanted to thank everyone who contributed to his recovery.