Jock Barnes, playing a tune at Pat Moorton Lookout at Lennox Point yesterday, has a whole new outlook on life after surviving a bad fall in Bali.
Jock Barnes, playing a tune at Pat Moorton Lookout at Lennox Point yesterday, has a whole new outlook on life after surviving a bad fall in Bali. BRENDEN ALLEN

Jock feels lucky after bad fall

BE CAREFUL what you wish for because like Lennox Head surfer Jock Barnes, you might just get it.

“I remember on the way over to Bali I was caught up, working too much and running myself ragged,” Barnes said yesterday while reflecting on the moment that changed his life.

“I thought, 'I need a way to get this to change'.

“I wasn't planning on falling off a three-story building, but it changed.”

Barnes was on assignment for a surfing magazine in Bali when he sleepwalked off a third-story balcony and plunged head first through two pergolas and landed in a neighbouring yard, fracturing three vertebrae in his back and opening a head wound that required 17 staples.

“When they explained to me that I managed to fall these three stories, have a huge hole in my head and an injured back, but had nothing wrong with my arms or fingers, it was one of those surreal experiences,” he said.

“I wondered how do you fall this far and not try to protect yourself.”

Barnes spent one day in a Balinese hospital before being airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital.

After one week in the orthopaedic ward, the 26-year-old was transported back to Lennox Head where he spent the next three months in a sternal occipital mandibular immobilizer brace.

“There is something in that saying, you don't know what you got until it's gone,” Barnes said.

“I came very close to understanding what it would be like if it (the ability to walk) was gone and got renewed appreciation for a lot of those things.

“I guess I surprised a lot of people but I can't say this enough: This event is probably the best thing that's ever happened to me.

“People need to understand the whole thing about life is it's a gift.

“I had nearly had that taken away from me.”

With that came a renewed lust for life.

“From the first morning I woke up I was just thankful to be alive and feel my feet,” he said.

“We're all just lucky to be here. If we've got our life and our health that's just such a massive gift to have.

“The whole time, that's all I could think about.

“I'd wake up and say, 'How good is this! I can walk today. I can't turn my head but I can walk'.

“It made me just realise there's so many things we get pent up about and let things get us down and depressed. They're really such small insignificant details.

“It let me stand back and look at the big picture a bit more.

“We're really lucky to live in Australia and the North Coast in particular and you're really just wasting your time if you let things get you down.”

During the long recovery, Barnes's movements were dramatically restricted and it took five months for the two-time junior Australian and runner up world champion surfer to get back on a board.

“The bonus of that is I'm a really keen guitarist ... I couldn't could lift my head to see it, but for three whole months I was just playing music,” he said.

“I wasn't moving around real quick and couldn't drive so I got myself stuck into learning about music

“And I started studying business management.

“I definitely made the most of it.”

And one of the best things to come out of it was a new romance with his now girlfriend Kiana Toupin.

“I even managed to ask a girl out while I was in my neck brace,” he said.

On the whole it's been a positive experience.

“I'm definitely not upset this accident happened,” he said.

But he couldn't have done it without help.

“I just want to send out a really big thanks to a couple of people.

“A massive thanks to my parents Steve and Sue. From the moment I was injured they did everything that could possibly be done to make sure everything was taken care off. They've been really positive and I couldn't have done it without their help,” he said.

“I've got to throw in a mention for my girlfriend. Apparently, she's got the magic touch that's managed to make my spine heal.

“I suppose I better thank my sisters too.

“Also, Jan Carton at the Chek Institute on the Gold Coast - I've had a really great team of people helping me out.”

Barnes is now back in the water and will soon be running surfing and ocean awareness classes, on behalf of Far North Coast Surfing for local kids. Read all about that in tomorrow's Northern Star.

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