ABOUT

JASON WHEELER

Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

Jason established First Choice Spinal & Sports Physiotherapy soon after a near-death experience in December 2018. Having survived a 20m fall from a cliff, Jason re-evaluated his family and career priorities.

Having worked in private practice since 2006, Jason gained valuable experience and insights into how best to serve his patients. He also realized that in order to provide a range of top quality services that he would need to establish his own clinic.

 

First Choice Spinal & Sports Physiotherapy services both the sporting population and 

the general population with equal enthusiasm and commitment to high-value care.

 

Jason has both a Bachelor and Masters degree in physiotherapy with an 11 year gap between them - meaning that he is up to date with the latest developments in physiotherapy. Recently, the majority of locally trained physiotherapists have a graduate entry masters degree where they only have 2 years of physiotherapy specific training as opposed to Jason's 6 years.

Besides working in his clinic, Jason also regularly volunteers at sporting events including the Commonwealth Games 2018, Alice Springs Masters Games 2018, and Six Foot Track Marathon. He also has extensive rugby union experience, having worked with Northern Suburbs Rugby in the Shute Shield competition for 5 seasons.

Jason is an active member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association as a Titled Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist. He regularly represents the profession at major sporting events including the Commonwealth Games, City2Surf, and the Australian Fitness Expo where he also mentors junior physios.

  • Master of Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal) - University of Queensland 2017

A post-graduate degree i.e. an additional 2 years of study focusing on the assessment and treatment of complex conditions

A 4 year undergraduate degree focusing solely on physiotherapy.

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Physiotherapy - University of Sydney 2006

A Most Unexpected Fall by Jason Wheeler          18 Dec 2018

                                                                                        

On Sunday 2nd December I did Jugglers canyon at Blackheath with my friend Mule. We’ve safely completed many canyons together over the years and there was no reason to expect that this would be any different. The conditions were fine and our plan was to undertake Grand Canyon after we finished Jugglers.

 

After a series of routine 5-10m abseils we neared the final 20m abseil. Mule packed away the rope while I walked ahead to investigate the abseil. With the cliff wall to my left and the 20m drop to my right I placed my right foot at the cliff edge on some grass to see what we were in for. I’d expected that there would be something solid under the grass but to my alarm there was nothing but air and down I plunged. I turned to my left in a desperate attempt to grab anything that would save me but I was literally clutching at straws of grass.

The next thing I knew I was in free-fall. Sunlight gave way to the darkness of the canyon.

 

Even though Mule didn’t see me fall he reckoned he heard 4 distinct impacts and initially thought I’d dropped my pack as I’d only uttered a faint cry. If only that was all that happened. The impact of hitting the ground winded and temporarily immobilised me. It was the closest I’ve come to an out-of-body experience.

 

Having landed in a shallow pool of water I could only look up in disbelief at the cliff that I’d walked along moments ago. There was no loss of consciousness and I’d managed to avoid hitting my head. I was briefly

 

immobilised then noticed my left knee was severely disfigured, appearing to be dislocated. I slid backwards about a metre to get out of the water then called for help.

 

Mule abseiled the traditional way by using a rope then assessed the damage. He too was stunned but remained calm. I expected that I’d broken my femur too but was relieved that I could still feel and move my left foot. Seemingly there was no spinal cord injury.

 

Fortunately there was another group of canyoners a mere 10 minutes behind us. They were all in their 60s but looked very fit and experienced. Mule stayed with me along with Sue - a retired GP, and Joy - an angel, while Bob went to call for help. Typically there is no mobile reception in a canyon and this often extends into the surrounding bushland. Juggler was no exception.

 

I gladly accepted some panadol from Sue, which I figured was better than nothing. She monitored my vitals and did a systems-check: my leg was badly banged up but she thought my femur was ok and was reassured that I hadn’t gone into shock. I was changed into a thermal top and given a space blanket for warmth. I rested my head on Joy’s leg for support and we chatted about all sorts of things to keep me distracted from my situation. Joy managed to keep my spirits up. The next 2 hours saw a gradual decline in my condition as I started to shiver and become increasingly pale. Sue did a great job of giving me the “good news” and keeping the “bad news” to herself, so that I wouldn’t become overly alarmed. Fortunately my pain was only moderate - thank goodness for adrenaline.

 

A chopper passed overhead which I thought was my salvation until it was soon diverted to another emergency on the Colo River. This made me lose some hope. After 2 hours the first paramedics arrived via ambulance from Katoomba. This was pretty quick as it took Bob time to run out of the canyon and beyond before he got reception, then the paramedics drove from Katoomba, then they had to hike their gear into the end of the canyon where I’d fallen. Fortunately I’d fallen at the final abseil otherwise access would have been much, much harder.

 

Jen the paramedic loaded me up with morphine and fitted a splint to my leg. It was still unclear as to what my injuries were but it was clear that morphine is good stuff! I was wrapped in a sleeping bag and another thermal top which stopped me shivering and made me laugh as its pattern was red with hundreds of Bullants. I’d wanted one of those tops for years as I’m a member of the Bullants running club. I continued to chat away, including about how I’d just gotten married a few kilometres away at Evans Lookout only 3 weeks earlier.

 

More rescuers turned up including Police, SES, and RFS. Eventually another chopper arrived, dropping off more paramedics with a stretcher. It was a very windy day and the chopper used a lot of fuel, thereby forcing it to fly to Bankstown to refuel before coming back to wait at the old Katoomba Airport.

 

A canyon is a very calming setting to be during a near-death situation. The trickling of water, shadows, and stunning rock formations and flora surely helped to keep me relaxed. I knew that I was safe and was in good hands. I was carefully transferred to the chopper stretcher. Meanwhile 4 trees were felled by chainsaw to provide easier access for the chopper. A team of about 15 rescuers passed me hand-over-hand along 200m of undulating single track to a clearing where after 6.5 hours I was winched into the chopper. What a relief to finally be on my way to hospital.

 

It was a quick flight to Westmead Public Hospital where it was all hands on deck to get me wired up, cannulated, and scanned. I was cleared of any neck/head injuries which was a relief as I could take off the neck collar and start eating. Jess arrived soon after, having been kept informed by the police throughout the rescue.

 

My injuries were extensive:

  • Left knee - avulsion left anterior cruciate ligament, ruptured medial collateral ligament, ruptured posterior cruciate ligament, torn/flipped medial/lateral menisci, ruptured patella tendon.

  • Left sacro-iliac joint - 3mm subluxation due to ligamentous rupture.

  • Fractured left ribs 8-12

  • Bilateral pneumothoraces (partially collapsed lungs)

  • Fractured spinous processes L2 and L3

  • Bruised ego

 

I had 3 surgeries:

  • Application of external fixation frame to my left knee as it was completely unstable

  • 2 stainless steel screws to stabilise the SIJ

  • Left knee reconstruction of everything except the PCL

I’ve made a lot of progress since my admission. The staff have been professional and taken great care of me. I’m relieved to have survived but am aware that my injuries may have lasting effects. I’m racing my (almost) 10 month old son Jett to see who will be the first to walk. The experience has shown me who my true friends are in how they’ve supported myself and Jess in this awful situation.

Jess has been my rock in her unwavering love and support especially in my darkest moments when I’ve dealt with severe pain and demons about the future.

Hopefully I’ll be home for Christmas and will start my rehab in January. If all goes well I could be back to work by March. Best wishes to everyone over the holidays. Stay safe and be careful where you tread.

Jason

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