In September 2016, an afternoon of practicing his latest trampoline tricks in the backyard of his family home turned into Hayden’s worst nightmare. After a front flip gone wrong, the young gymnast’s neck was broken in four places and doctors gave him a 3% chance of ever walking again.
In the face of such devastation, Hayden’s response was simple – “Well, I just have to be part of that 3%.”
In the three years since his accident, Hayden’s recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. Looking at him now it’s hard to believe that he was once labelled a quadriplegic for life. Hayden humbly credits his remarkable strength and optimism to his background in gymnastics, which began when he started training in a YMCA program at the age of 8.
Earlier this year, he began using the spin bike on his own without having his feet strapped in. It seems unbelievable, but he’s doing it, through years of hard work and grit to move his hips.
As a complete quadriplegic, he shouldn’t have any working tricep muscles, but through training, he’s regained them – alongside muscles in his biceps, forearm, wrists and chest.
“Being a gymnast gave me that really strong mental strength to overcome challenges,” says Hayden. “Also being heavily involved in the scout association and being here at The Y – everything prior to my accident made me the person that I am and gave me strength.”
Shortly after his accident, Hayden looked to the Y for a role coaching in the very gymnastics program that gave him his start.
“I was really worried when Hayden first came back to the island that it would be emotionally difficult for him to come back into the stadium,” admits Rebecca, Area Manager at the Phillip Island Y branch. “He wasn’t fazed by it at all. He was looking forward to getting back and seeing those kids. And they absolutely just wrapped themselves around him.”
For Hayden, coaching with the Y provided the stability that he needed during such a difficult time. “Everything in my life had changed and my world was turned upside down, so it was good to come back to The Y and have a bit of normality,” explains Hayden. “I’m able to come work out at the gym when I’m not coaching. It’s almost a home away from home.”
The road to recovery wasn’t always clear, but Hayden refused to accept defeat and with the help of family, friends and everyone at his local Y, he started to bounce back. “I wanted to continue my recovery not only to prove the doctors wrong, but to show everyone in the community that their support doesn’t go unnoticed.”
With the community behind him and the nay-sayers underfoot, Hayden made great strides in his recovery and soon enough he had almost complete autonomy of his arms. Then came his appearance on television show, ‘This Time Next Year’.
In 2017, Hayden declared to an audience of millions around the country, that he would walk again in one year’s time. “I knew this was going to be a massive challenge, but I stand by my motto ‘one nerve at a time’,” says Hayden. “I wasn’t going to be able to get up and walk in one day. It had to happen one nerve at a time.”
One year later Hayden returned to Australia’s screens, walking onto the stage with the use of crutches and inspiring thousands with just a few steps.
With his mobility continuing to improve one nerve at a time, Hayden has high hopes for the future. He hopes to keep on inspiring the people in his life, especially the young gymnasts he mentors at The Y. He’s also looking forward to getting his driver’s licence so that he can reach a new level of independence. But wherever Hayden’s future may take him, he will always have a home at The Y.
“Being a gymnast gave me that really strong mental strength to overcome challenges,”
says Hayden. “Also being heavily involved in the scout association and being
here at The Y – everything prior to my accident made me the person that I am
and gave me strength.”