Ivan Safranek

From the west coast to the east: a solo traveller’s tale

“As soon as I entered Sargood, one reality ended and another began. I had an amazing time. I’ve dreamt about places like this but I’d never seen anything like it. Sargood provides a calming, soothing environment in a world that is sometimes hard. The accessible rooms and bathrooms, the helpful staff, the activities and the gym were second to none. Sargood is a magic place.” – Ivan Safranek, Sargood on Collaroy guest.

It’s not every day you can lay claim to changing someone’s life but that’s what happened the weekend Ivan Safranek stayed at Sargood on Collaroy.

Ivan was a guest at Sargood at the same time as Nathan. Both sustained similar spinal cord injuries (SCI) when they were teenagers in the early ‘90s. The two connected over a swim and a few chats and by the end of his stay, Ivan’s positive attitude had made such an impression that Nathan said he would be forever glad they had met.

According to Ivan, “Sargood breaks down barriers and lets people open up. It makes guests feel calm and relaxed in a world that is sometimes hard.  It’s part of the magic of Sargood”.

Ivan Safranek, who lives in Perth Western Australia, has reached the top in his chosen water sport and is the current national champion in V8 Jetsprint boat racing. Ivan is a seasoned traveller and can confidently say he has never experienced anything like Sargood.

“There’s a lot in society that is not accessible but that’s not the case at Sargood.

“The architectural and open plan design, the specialist support staff, and the thoughtful little touches are some of the things that help build a sense of community and connection there,” he said.

The Manager of Sargood, James Dakin, shares his passion and experience of living and working in the Collaroy area with Sargood guests who come to not only refresh but to connect with the community, learn and participate in courses and a range of recreation and leisure activities.

“Life for people with spinal cord injury is not without its stresses but here at Sargood our aim is for guests to have stress-free stays where they can book a beautiful hotel room that they know is truly accessible.  There is no need for our guests to bring bulky equipment — it is all provided. Guests can choose to bring their own carer or not as amazing care staff are available at Sargood.  These three aspects make a stay with us stress-free and ensure that guests and their families can refresh and reconnect with one another. Our guests leave more confident and independent,” he said.

The entire Sargood resort was designed to put the fun and ease back into travel for people with an SCI. The fully accessible resort includes 17 self-contained apartments and offers the latest in home automation, daily living aids and adaptive facilities plus a gymnasium.

“The shared kitchen, the varied height tables, the easy-to-use kettles and the slide-out tray in front of the microwave to take your meal to the table without burning yourself…  you don’t get in today’s houses,” mused Ivan.

“My room was amazing – purpose-built and not retrofitted, spacious and accessible with integrated home automation. The closet where the shirt rack is at my shoulder height shows the cleverly thought-out design.”

The ensuite bathroom was another standout for Ivan, “it was sensational, I could do a complete u-turn!”

New experiences

Ivan describes Sargood as a place where people with an SCI have the ability to experience things they wouldn’t necessarily anywhere else.

“People sometimes put restrictions on themselves. As a society, we put restrictions on ourselves. We do what we are comfortable doing. But to see three other people who are wheelchair users and you’re the fourth and they ask you, ‘do you want to go for a swim?’… it makes you think, ‘if you guys can do it, maybe I can do it too’. Sargood gives you the opportunity and confidence to do it.”

Whilst the accessible facilities impressed Ivan, so did the staff who he describes as loving their jobs.

“Nothing is too difficult, they were so helpful. You could ask something and they would come back in two minutes. One staff member travelled an hour and a quarter a day to get there. That says a lot. A person can have empathy and understanding, they understand what is going on for people with a spinal cord injury. That doesn’t come naturally to everyone.”

Creating family memories

The first time Ivan stayed at Sargood he sent photos of the resort to his eight-year-old daughter and within six weeks, Ivan had returned with Ivanka, who thought it was ‘really cool’.

“She was so excited when we got there. She noticed the size of the rooms and the automatic doors and said ‘that’s so awesome for people in wheelchairs!’

“Ivanka asked ‘what’s the track in the ceiling, Dad?’ I said it’s for wheelchair users who need a hoist. But it’s discreetly hidden in the cupboard.”

During this second stay, Ivan met up with other parents and children who were Sargood guests. And Ivan did something he had never had the opportunity to do before.

“We’ve never been on the beach for a walk. Where I live, not one council has a ramp from the carpark to the water. But at Sargood we took the Extreme X8 to the beach and went for a walk. My daughter loved it and so did I!”

The Extreme X8 is a power wheelchair that allows users to access rugged terrain. Designed by Magic Mobility, Extreme X8 is an off-road 4×4 electric wheelchair with a durable construction, perfect for beach use.

Ivan describes people with SCI as being in the minority. But he didn’t get that feeling at Sargood, and said the staff were so helpful.

“Some people with SCI can lose a bit of sight and direction in themselves, so sometimes it’s good to say ‘hey, you can do a lot of things”.

Ivan was mesmerised by the location, the facilities, and most of all the people at Sargood. As a resort built specifically for people with SCI, Sargood is where Nathan and Ivan plan to book another stay to meet up again and take advantage of all that the resort has to offer.