Josh* doesn’t want anyone else to suffer – nor cause suffering – like he has.
Last year, after a few beers he and his mates climbed on to the roof of a two-storeyed flat – something he’d done many times before – but this this time it went horribly wrong.
“I was walking on the apex when my foot slipped and I fell backwards.
“I broke my collarbone, shoulder blade, several ribs and fractured my spine. I was really lucky to land on the grass, rather than the concrete right next to it. I know it could’ve been a lot worse.”
The then second year student vividly remembers seeing his parents arrive in Dunedin’s emergency room. At that stage Josh was still unable to move and the severity of his injuries weren’t yet known.
“My parents drove to Dunedin the night it happened … I can’t imagine what that was like for them.”
After being hospitalised for a week, he returned home to recover. It was two weeks before he could sit in a chair and longer before he could walk without pain. He was in a sling for six weeks and needed therapy to mobilise his left side.
“The spine has caused a fair amount of discomfort and long-lasting impacts - almost a year later I can still feel the effects of the injury and you’re always wondering whether your back can handle certain movements,” he says.
Josh wants people to know how grateful he is that he’s here to tell this story.
“I’m very thankful for my mates and everyone else who helped directly after I fell, and also the paramedics who looked after me on the ground and in the ambulance. I was in a lot of pain to begin with and it is only now upon reflection that I can see how lucky I was.”
He readily admits the decision to go on the “steep” roof that day was influenced by alcohol and is urging others to “stop and think”.
“I’m not going to tell anyone not to go on roofs, but I will say I wish I had thought more about what could happen if something went wrong and who it would affect, because it was not only me, but my family, friends and I imagine everyone who saw it happen.
“I know now that it was dumb, but that’s not what you’re thinking about at the time. I’ve learnt from my mistakes, but I hope others do too cos I really don’t want anyone else to go through what I did and what I put my friends and family through.”
Proctor Dave Scott backs Josh’s message.
“Climbing on a roof isn’t harmless fun; it’s high risk behaviour that changes lives.”
Dave and his Campus Watch team visit about 1000 flats at the beginning of the year to talk to occupants about risks and urge them to make the most of their time at Otago without regrets. Partying on roofs is part of this visit.
“Every year we have students injured from falling from heights. Their injuries range from broken bones to long-term life-altering. Every time someone gets on a roof, they are risking their life,” he says.
“Not only that, they are affecting everyone around them. Watching someone fall and get seriously injured can stay with someone for life. That one stupid, selfish decision can affect dozens, if not more people – friends, whānau, innocent bystanders and the emergency services that tend to that person.”
He urges students to look out for their mates – especially when they’re not in the headspace to look after themselves.
“Almost all of these incidents happen when the victim is not sober. Be a good mate, have the courage to step in and shut down dangerous behaviour before tragedy hits.
“We have never met one person who has come to grief from this behaviour who doesn’t regret it. Come to Otago, have fun, live life to the fullest, but don’t leave with regrets. Please don’t make me make that phone call home to your parents.”