On the road to recovery

Former Dunedin man Craig Hickford, pictured with wife Stacey and children Grace and Toby, in...
Former Dunedin man Craig Hickford, pictured with wife Stacey and children Grace and Toby, in their Christchurch home, is working to get life back to normal after a life-threatening head injury. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Former Dunedin school principal Craig Hickford, who, with his family, is now living in Christchurch, is on the long road to recovery after a major head injury. Hope Burmeister catches up with him to see how he is doing.

Craig Hickford is behind the wheel again, and loving the freedom.

The former Brockville School principal said this week, from his Christchurch home, driving again was a great advance for him.

It gave him the independence to do tasks like pick something up from the shop by himself, which was a big deal.

"It might seem minuscule, as such, but it's actually been game-changing for me."

The 46-year-old father of two continues to recover from the severe head injury he received when he was knocked off his bicycle by a ute in Main Rd, Fairfield, three years ago.

The incident almost cost Mr Hickford his life.

"When the accident first happened, I couldn't do much. I couldn't walk around, I couldn't run, [I] definitely couldn't do the basics," he said.

He was not able to do simple tasks such as showering, eating, or cooking.

His recovery had been slow, but was steady, he said.

He was now able to cook food for himself and his two children, do washing and look after the house.

The family - Mr Hickford, wife Stacey and children Grace (10) and Toby (7) - moved to Christchurch two and a-half years ago to be closer to extended family.

In order to drive again, he had to go through rigorous testing and instruction, in part due to vision problems related to his injuries.

"At first, I wasn't at all keen on driving. I didn't feel like I should be driving since ... I was hit by a car on a bike."

He has a driver's licence but is not allowed to drive after 1pm, to ensure he gets enough rest each day.

The keen sportsman has also been easing himself back into cycling and running, albeit still only for short distances.

Things were taking time, and he was learning to be patient with the progress, as well as appreciating more small achievements, he said.

Mr Hickford's memory was improving and he could remember things in context, but he could still not remember the day of his crash, which, he said, was not a bad thing.

Lately, he had been thinking about education a lot, and was keen to get back into the field.

He was doing a course for people with brain injuries to explore possible career options.

"I have to think realistically. I'm not going to be that person that's going to run a school, but I think I've got skills around curriculum design, around staff structuring of a school that can help."

Mr Hickford hoped the course would also improve his social interactions in a work-based environment since he had not had much social interaction since the accident.

He was still in contact with, and had received a lot of support from, the schools and communities where he used to work, including Brockville, Poolburn and in Christchurch.

His memory of former pupils was coming back, too.

He and his family recently went out to a restaurant in Christchurch and a staff member recognised him as her former teacher. He was happy he could recall her name once she made the connection.

Although there was some way to go yet in his recovery, he was grateful for all the care and support he had received from people in Dunedin and Otago since the accident.

Mr Hickford's goal was to get back to as normal a life as possible.

"I never expected this to ever happen. I wouldn't wish it on anybody but life's about making the most of what we've got and I've got to try to find a way to make the most of what I've got."

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