Lift us up where we belong

I have met many incredible people in my life.  As a journalist I got to meet characters that made headlines for right and wrong reasons.  I met famous people, quiet achievers, the selfless and the driven. I met mad cat ladies, smooth mafia hoods and earnest politicians.  I met people like RM Williams, Steve Irwin, Tommy Emmanuel, Jimmy Barnes…

But in all my life, I have never met anyone like Rob Cook.


Rob agreed to be part of an event I helped organise last week… I had read about him, been inspired to recommend him, and enthusiastically anticipated his presentation to a gathering of assorted cattle producers from around the world.  I knew his story would shock some people, and I arrived there expecting him to inspire me.  To help put the pressures of my life, and those around me, into some perspective.

I thought I knew… but I really had NO idea what I was in for.

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Rob is a young man, who happens to live on the most remote cattle station in Australia.  And if you know Australia at all, you will understand that is a long, LONG way from anywhere.  He was a rodeo star, a go-get-em kinda guy from a very large but close-knit family, married to his sweetheart, Sarah.  He has piercing blue eyes, a direct manner and two adorable kids.

He is also a quadraplegic.

And while I knew this fact, before he was lifted onto stage by a couple of burly Brangus breeders… I didn’t GET it.

Not until he spoke.

Once up on stage, in command of his audience, Rob shared his life story – up to, including, and beyond THAT day when his life changed irrevocably.

The pivotal moment was a helicopter crash, on his property, about as far from civilisation and medical help as it is possible to get.

I am not going to share every detail of his story, because, honestly, I think you need to hear that from the man himself. No-one can tell his story like he can*.

But a couple of points he made I will share.  Because you really need to understand how amazing this guy is.
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He tells of hanging awkwardly in the chopper wreckage, of knowing his injuries were life-threatening and considering telling the pilot to tell his wife and kids he loved them.  But holding back because he decided, that would be a coward’s way out. The least he could do, he thought, was live long enough to tell them himself.

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He tells of being on life support, where the medical experts had done all they could and finally said: we can do no more – from this point on it’s up to the patient.  And he decided right there: Okay.  I now have a goal. 

And three weeks later, he finally did it.  He breathed on his own.  It would be the first of his new challenges – and he would meet them all with the same clear-eyed detirmination.

Rob won a scholarship called the Nuffield, which helped pay for travel to gather information and ideas for improving his farming practice.  It did not cover the costs of his family and carers to travel with him. So he fund-raised. Not by selling chooks at the pub – but by driving his wheelchair 730 km across the desert.  Uh huh.  Driving his motorised wheelchair (he can move a thumb) across the DESERT.  He did it, and together they travelled and gathered ideas to help he (and others who might find themselves in his position) operate their businesses.  Because, in the end, all this young beef producer wants to is go back to work.

Each of these stories I retell here is but a tiny snippet of the epic battles this guy has taken on.

He tells them with confidence and candour and colour, in such a way that his wheelchair seems to dissolve and his attitude and personality fill the room.  I felt myself being lifted and my own issues being shrunk with every word.  I decided right there that everyone needs to hear him speak.

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And you won’t fully understand why until you sit in a room with him and listen.  Rob’s motto is:

“I would rather attempt something great and fail, than to do nothing at all and succeed.”  

How is THAT for an attitude?

I think it was his response to a question I asked at the end of his presentation that totally sealed it for me. I asked:

“You are here, inspiring us. But who inspires you?”

With a blink or hesitation, he answered:

“My wife.”
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I pretty much lost it right then. Later, I asked her how she coped with the emotional fallout when he shares their intense and personal story with others.  She admitted it was hard in the beginning, and she used to sit behind him so no-one could see.  Then she looked at me and said:

“You know… HE’S the one – for all of us.  Some people get angry when this kind of thing happens, but not Rob… I have never seen him have a down day.”

Can you imagine?

I can.

But only because I got to meet him, and share his special kind of energy and outlook for a short while.

Beef2012_4753 e(BB & the incredible Rob Cook).

I hope, one day, you get to meet Rob and Sarah in real life too… I urge you all to explore Rob’s story more here* on his website.  Spend some time – and maybe leave a message. I am trying to encourage he and Sarah to blog some more…  the world needs some more of their attitude, don’t you think?

PS Another great story on Rob here. (Nuffield link here).

24 Responses to “Lift us up where we belong”

  1. Awesome story, BB, just awesome.
    Scotty´s last blog post ..How Much?

  2. “It doesn’t matter the size of the mountain that faces you. Keep climbing!”

    Amanda – you are incredible. I just wish that many more Aussies and overseas friends could look at your work ethos, dedication, role model for your two wonderful kids, they will and are, I am sure, so proud of Mummy and Daddy.
    Keep up the good work, mate or is that now to be politically correct, mattie?

  3. Wow – great eye-opener to how easy we all have it compared to Rob and his family!!! Just checked out his website and blog! We had Sam Bailey talk to us almost 3 years ago – he too is an inspiring man who has coped with being a quadraplegic and farmer. Great story Amanda, thanks!
    Donna´s last blog post ..Pennant Banner

  4. What I have discovered is this: when you are around people like that for any length of time, your perspective changes. That is how powerful their story (and their telling of it) is. I think that the picture I loved most was the one that showed the row of young men listening intently.

  5. OK, crying in my Cheerios now. Off to Rob’s website now…
    JENNY TALIA´s last blog post ..n’awlins

  6. Darn – you got me.
    jeanie´s last blog post ..Schnitzel Thyme

  7. Beautiful, inspiring story. Sometimes we all need to be reminded about what, and who, are truly important in life. Thank you for sharing Rob’s story.
    A Novel Woman´s last blog post ..Where beauty comes from

  8. This is quite an amazing guy and an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Late afternoon at the pond

  9. Thanks, BB, for bringing this to us. It sure put my own problems into the background.

  10. A great read BB. Rob, Sarah & his family are good friends of ours & you have written this wonderfully. His story still brings a tear to my eye every time I read it or tell it myself. He is the most amazing & inspirational person I’ve ever met & has helped us through some tought times with his strength. Now everyday I’m still in awe of his determination as well as admiration for the love in his family – they are all truly blessed to have each other. I urge everyone to meet Rob one day & hear his story as well as meet his wife Sarah as her support is like no other.
    Thanks for sharing his story.

  11. Rob and his family are truly inspiring people and really show what the bush people can achieve. I take my hat off to them.

  12. Oh my goodness, I think I obviously didn’t make myself clear. I was referring to this remarkable young man and his wife, his passion and drive. Truely a remarkable person, as is his wife and two children. Rob, Sarah and children make us look like “no bodies”. What I really meant and worded badly was, thank you for putting up this man’s remarkable story.
    Wonderful for you to organise his visit to inspire us all.

  13. Thanks for sharing this amazing families story! Truly inspiring!

  14. Rob spoke at our Milk Tooth Muster on the Friday at Beef, I cried then and I’m crying again reading this. I love his quote “I’d rather try something great and fail than do nothing and succeed”. It’s now written above my desk and something I will aspire to do every day.

  15. I got tears and goosebumps just reading that, I can’t imagine how inspiring it would have been to hear him talk. I saw a TV program on him while he was crossing the desert. Amazing stuff.

    Wish I could have heard him speak.
    Fleur McDonald´s last blog post ..‘Fire!’

  16. Brought tears to my eyes! Wish I could meet this guy!
    Jools´s last blog post ..My Dog, My Camera and Me

  17. We’ve had the absolute pleasure of knowing Rob and all his family for over 22 years. Seeing Rob, Sar, Lawson and Brax go through this trying time with nothing but courage and determination has been overwhelming to say the least. When we get to catchup with the family you find yourself forgetting about the wheelchair because Rob hasn’t changed from before the accident..if anything he is more determined not too mention busy! We are very proud to call them family!

  18. Inspirational story… Thank you for sharing!

  19. Thank you for sharing this story with us. We wouldn’t have heard it otherwise. I hope Rob & Sarah find more ways to connect with the wider community, because if we had’ve known about his epic fundraising effort, we would’ve donated for sure.
    Thanks you again. What a truly inspiring couple. I wonder if they have met, Sam and Jenny Bailey?
    Margareta Osborn´s last blog post ..The YEARNING by Kate Belle Competition ~ The winner is …

  20. Amazing story Amanda, amazing.

  21. Just finished his fabulous book, like you Amanda, in just 2 days. What a bullish get up and go attitude Rob has. Thank you for introducing me to the Cook’s and their crew and a reminder of how strong love actually is. Hugs Jac
    Jac´s last blog post ..Muddy Nest

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