Rob Croll, who was paralysed while surfing at Kirra a year ago today, with wife Katie and sons Rafe and Bowie.
Rob Croll, who was paralysed while surfing at Kirra a year ago today, with wife Katie and sons Rafe and Bowie. Lachie Millard, Gold Coast Bulletin

Surfing dad's new life as quadriplegic after beach injury

ROB Croll knows the story you'd love to read, the one about the young father adjusting to life as a quadriplegic with boundless positivity and a constant smile on his dial.

The only catch is Rob's too honest to tell that tale.

"I'm not embarrassed to admit I struggle mentally," the 35-year-old said a year since he was paralysed in a surfing accident at Kirra.

"I've actually sought help, which I'm fine with you publishing as it may raise awareness about people seeking help with their mental health.

"I sometimes feel I'm a burden to my family because I've changed their entire life for the rest of my life."
 

Rob Croll with sons Bowie and Rafe before his surfing accident.
Rob Croll with sons Bowie and Rafe before his surfing accident. Lachie Millard, Gold Coast Bulletin

Twelve months ago Rob was living his dream at Burleigh Heads. A plumber by trade, he had a good job, a vibrant social life, a beautiful wife and two gorgeous little boys.

Then came Kirra and after eight months in the spinal ward of Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital, he now finds himself living a new reality on the Sunshine Coast.

"My grandfather had an empty house and with Mum and Dad up here too, we felt it was the right move," Rob explained.

"It's eased the financial burden and the family network has been instrumental in us adjusting to life with an injury like this, but we now think it might be more of a temporary move.

"It's been particularly hard for (my wife) Katie because she had quite a buzzing social life down the Coast."

Rob Croll and wife Katie during his stint at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Rob Croll and wife Katie during his stint at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital. Lachie Millard, Gold Coast Bulletin

Rob met Czech-born Katie while living in London a decade ago and, as he puts it: "She fell victim to my clutches."

Now, more than ever, she's also his rock.

"I always knew she was solid but I can't believe how great she's been," he said.

"We have a carer come every morning to help me get going but otherwise she helps me through the day and puts me to bed. I couldn't have got through this without her."

The couple has two sons - Rafe, 5, and Bowie, 3 - and Rob doesn't hold back when asked to reflect on them.

"Through everything I've lost, the thing that upsets me the most is that connection with my kids," he said.

"At their age, that connection with fathers is typically a physical thing more than a spoken one. They need to be shown how to do things rather than told and I get frustrated because I have to try to tell my eldest boy how to do things instead of show him."

 

Rob Croll now calls the Sunshine Coast home: “It’s eased the financial burden but we now think it might be more of a temporary move.”
Rob Croll now calls the Sunshine Coast home: “It’s eased the financial burden but we now think it might be more of a temporary move.” Lachie Millard, Gold Coast Bulletin

In a bid to ease that burden, Rob has undergone revolutionary surgery in recent months that he hopes will provide him with greater use of his hands.

"It was a big decision because some people I spoke to were dead against it and some people were all for it," he said of the procedure that saw nerves and tendons in his arm used to "rewire" his hands.

"It was a bit of a cruel trick (after the accident) that I was able to use my arms but not my hands … (but) we've seen the first signs of improvement. I've now got some movement in my right fingers, which helps with picking things up.

"The goal is to be able to grab a stubby with one hand instead of two - among other things, of course."

As for returning to the water he loved so much, that box has already been ticked.

"It was mixed emotions," Rob said of trialling - and ultimately ordering - a beach wheelchair.

"That feeling of going under a wave and popping out the other side is nearly indescribable and while it was nice to be back in the water, the mediocrity of being in a wheelchair as opposed to what I used to do was bittersweet.

"I'm always asked about my goals and while I'd love to get everything back that I once had, I'll take what I can and all these steps - the beach wheelchair, the surgery - are about clawing back what I can."

As for any final words, they are saved for the people who didn't even know him a year ago.

"I knew I had a good network of mates and family who would support me but when strangers come to you and offer to raise money, it's overwhelming," Rob said.

"There have been fun runs and luncheons, little pins sold on doctors surgery desks … that support has been overwhelming at times and I'll forever be grateful that we weren't forgotten after six weeks."

News Corp Australia


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