Hugo Southcott is a remarkable client our Employment & Training service has been privileged to support. Read his incredible story of resilience below..
It was 2013 and 15-year-old Brisbane boy Hugo Southcott was having the time of his life. On holiday with family in the Bernese Swiss Alps, the straight-A student and experienced snowboarder was flying down infamous black run, The Schilthorn “Inferno”, a 2970m downhill route immortalised in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
As he hurtled through the incredible vista that surrounded him alongside his uncles and cousins (the Schilthorn offers panoramic views of the Titlis, Jungfrau, Monch, Eiger, Jura and Vosges Mountains, and the Black Forest), Hugo felt he was in his element. It was unimaginable then to think that in just a few minutes’ time he would be fighting for his life…
In a sickening turn of events the Alexandra Hills High School cross country and swimming champion lost control of his snowboard and fell awkwardly, crashing into the slope at speed and breaking his neck at the C6 vertebrae. Critically injured and suffering spinal shock, he was emergency helicoptered to the nearest hospital in Bern and later flown to the Mater Children’s Hospital in Brisbane where he spent the next six months recovering and coming to terms with losing mobility – Hugo has paraplegia with compromised hand dexterity as a result of the accident.
“They had to fuse my vertebrae with metal so my neck can’t be broken again. I don’t even remember exactly how I fell. I was going too fast,” Hugo says. “That’s about as much as I can recall”.
Despite the enormity of the changes and challenges confronting him at such an early stage of life, in the two years following his accident Hugo has shown himself to be the very model of resilience, going on to accomplish a slew of impressive life goals. These include becoming School Captain in his senior years of high school, topping the state academically with an OP of 1, and securing a scholarship to study Law at Queensland University of Technology this year. With the support of Myhorizon’s Employment & Training service he is now also working as a solicitor’s associate.
Solicitor John Rivett, who supervises Hugo, says he has been assisting him to put together due diligence packs, draft documents and trademark applications, and research legislation for giving client advice.
“Having Hugo on the team has been very helpful frankly so I hope he continues on with us,” he said.
For his part Hugo says his accident has motivated him to show people that challenges needn’t put a stop to their dreams, rather those dreams may just change slightly.
“I didn’t necessarily want to be school captain until I had this injury. It made me think that it would show other people that barriers don’t have to stop you from being a leader,” he said. “Everyone voted for me. They believed I would do a good job.”
Originally wanting to be a medical doctor, Hugo said he also had to change his future profession after his accident but not at the expense of the goals that motivated his preferred choice. “I thought of something that would use my effort academically but that would help people as well, so I decided that I should study law. I really focused on my studies in my senior years of high school – I thought I could still do that”.
His story of acceptance and recovery to date would not be complete without his father, Andrew, and mother, Chie Kosaka, who have been at his side since the accident and have faced bills upwards of $50,000 to modify their home, and finance on-going treatment and medication accounts for their son.
“Mum’s been helping me every day with all the things that I can’t do. She’s been helping me most days,” Hugo said.
Chie said her son’s wellbeing is her top priority: “Wherever he wants to go, I’m his legs at the moment, but he’s getting onto driving, so he’s gaining independence. He’s done his first lesson, and he will do another assessment soon”.
The community at large has also been of great support to Hugo and his family in the form of medical, disability, schooling and funding support, for which they say they are eternally grateful.
“We have met so many kind and generous people who have helped us since the accident. We want to give back now and say thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Chie says.