icare and the lawn mower man — how Martin stopped the grass from growing under his feet

Hurtling down the Golden Highway in the Northern Territory, on his way to Darwin, 58-year-old Martin Van De Pol was finally realising a life-long dream of circumnavigating Australia on his beloved motorbike.

Martin Van de Pol

Martin Van de Pol standing in his garden with his lawn mower.

With the wind in his hair and the gentle purring of the engine in his ears, Martin was on top of the world. Life, he said, is too short not to enjoy. It wouldn’t be long, though, before his dream would become his worst nightmare.

A qualified landscape gardener by trade, Martin has run his own gardening business for 40 years. At 25, he was working as Head Gardener at the Prince of Wales Hospital when his mates began urging him to go out on his own. Martin did this and his business grew quickly and, with word of mouth helping him to attract clients, he was soon rushed off his feet. It was daunting in the beginning, he said, as he no longer had the security of a weekly pay cheque.

"I've been very lucky to have been able to run my own business for as long as I have but it is beginning to take its toll on me physically. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not 25 anymore," said Martin.

Martin's ongoing pain

And take its toll it has. Early in 2019, Martins body gave out leaving him in a state of despair. One morning, following a jog in his local park, he began to feel a shooting pain right down the left side of his body. Shrugging it off as a result of exercise Martin ignored it and went to work. 

"Pain and me are buddies as I've always been a physical person. I played a lot of rugby when I was younger and I’m a huge fan of bungee jumping so I just ignored it thinking it would go away but I did feel like been tasered," he said.

But the pain wasn’t going away and on a job one morning his left leg collapsed from under him causing him to fall to the ground. He dragged himself to his car in an attempt to get help. A prolapsed disc in his back had caused nerve damage to his left leg leaving him in excruciating pain.

Martin turned to icare for help and he fell in to the caring hands of Case Manager Rhiannon Laman. "When I first took over Martin's claim he wasn't familiar with the process and had never claimed before. I explained everything to him as well as I could and sent follow up emails with more information," she said.

Rhiannon checked in with Martin regularly to have a catch up and see how he was going. She had recently had quite a significant knee injury herself so was able to use her recovery experience to empathise and reassure him.

Martin put a lot of pressure on himself to recover as quickly as possible, but Rhiannon emphasised the importance of having realistic time-frames for recovery and assured him that she wasn’t pushing him to get back to work as quickly as he was trying to. She also spoke with his treatment providers so that they could address some of these expectations.

I think communication was key with Martin. The workers compensation process can be very overwhelming especially when it's your own business on the line so talking through any anxieties he had regarding his recovery was really beneficial, she said.

"I thought I was finished, and my GP told me to retire. Rhiannon was my guardian angel throughout the claims process and, really, I don't know where I would be if not for her, he said." Today Martin is back doing what he loves the most. Tending to his client’s gardens as though they were his own, he is back at work and not letting the grass grow under his feet."