Matt Allen

We all came away with something useful and tangible and it was very satisfying seeing my own designs come to life!

With a background in science and a love of all things technical, it’s no surprise Matthew Allen found Sargood’s newest course – 3D printing – to be his favourite to date.

3D printing allows you to design and make just about anything, and this relatively new technology presents an exciting opportunity for people with a Spinal Cord Injury. The complex and variable nature of SCIs means that sometimes the exact adaptive aid that would help you doesn’t actually exist! With 3D printing, you can design your own adaptive product to solve a problem that is specific to you.

“It was extremely practical,” says Matthew. “We all came away with something useful and tangible and it was very satisfying seeing my designs come to life. We brainstormed ideas with the group, and I decided to make a dice container and roll cup. I plan to use these skills we developed to design more things at home. The course pushed me to think creatively and how to approach problems in different ways. The trainer was full of energy and helpful with showing us how to use the software despite our disabilities. He was hands-off in his tutorials in a good way, as the course was aimed at teaching us how to do it ourselves.”

Matthew was hit by a car in 2016 and suffered an SCI that left him a quadriplegic. Prior to his accident, he had been studying physics and mathematics and had begun working as a radiochemist. While he hasn’t been able to use his science background vocationally since his injury, the course has opened up some doors for his future.

“The best part about 3D printing is learning how to approach a problem with critical thinking and creativity. It’s not exactly art and it’s not exactly science – it’s somewhere between the two,” says Matthew. “It’s also a lot of fun and a great skill set to have. My partner Allison, who works in an engineering consultancy, realised that the CAD software in the course is like what they use at her company, and it has gotten me thinking about a potential career in drafting. It’s been a hugely positive experience for me and realising that there is a lot more vocationally and recreationally that I can do regardless of my injury.”

Matthew has been back to Sargood many times over the past few years. “The activities here offer opportunities we don’t normally have. For example, Allison and I have been in the ocean pool a couple of times and it is nice to be in the water together. Last time we were even able to go for a bike ride up on the headland and around the Narrabeen Lakes. It is just a lovely, normal experience and something we would otherwise struggle to do together following my injury.”

While Matthew also enjoys the occupational therapy activities and the virtual reality games at Sargood, he says it is the courses and the people that keep him coming back. He has attended Making Strides and the Return to Work courses, and he brought his extended family to Sargood to celebrate his mums 50th birthday. He has also had several weekends together with Allison.

“I love the location by the beach, but I would stay at Sargood wherever it was. The guest attendants are amazing and friendly, they also understand the help I need physically and are well trained. They have a lot of experience so I don’t have to explain everything to them.

“It’s also just a wonderful community. You can do whatever you want; you can just relax or book in for one of the activities. If it rains, the staff adapt – a few of us might grab a coffee in the surrounding area for example. The communal cooking area is always social and good fun with lots of chatting and laughter. I have also come to know some other guests who have stayed at the same time, and it’s a great place to catch up with my friends and family when I stay. It’s a great home away from home.”