Megan and Paul Dodd were married for just 24 days when, on Christmas day 14 months ago, Paul went downstairs in their London holiday apartment for a cigarette.
“Paul was half way down the stairs, there was five of them, and the timer light, the energy saving timer light that you punch at the top of the stairs, went out mid decent and in pitch black darkness”, Megan said.
The light inside Paul's head went out too -- a freak accident -- as he stumbled down five stairs he hit his head. “He's actually slipped and ricocheted off each side of the wall and it was that ricocheting action that's caused this traumatic injury -- it wasn't just a simple fall”, Megan said.
Megan and Paul haven't spoken since. Paul lay in a coma for weeks but eventually was well enough to return to Australia, only to find more problems. “Paul is on a neurosurgery ward in the RBH in Brisbane. He shouldn't really be there, that's for people who are sick who have just come out of operations”, Megan said.
Where he should be is in a nursing home with 24 hour care, but there is a chronic bed shortage in aged care facilities and no such home for young people with Paul's brain injury and care requirements.
But even if Paul finds a place where he can get the care he needs, Megan can't afford it. Although Paul will never recover, Centrelink says he is not eligible for a full disability pension because Megan has a job paying $60,000 a year. “My income, almost the majority of that, goes into maintaining our marital home -- the mortgage -- I still pay for Paul's MBF, I still pay for all our mutual bills ��" rates, insurance -- every thing”, Megan said.
All Paul gets is $50 a week -- barely enough for one night in a nursing home. Centrelink gave Megan two options: quit her job and lose her home or divorce her husband == both making him eligible for the full pension of $290. “Certainly not an option at all, even eluding to it is offensive and disgusting and somebody that has already gone through the worst trauma you could ever imagine, then to have that faced to you as an option is inconceivable, absolutely inconceivable”, Megan said.
Megan and Paul are suing the owners of the accommodation where the accident happened. “Due to the extent of the injury and the nature of the claim, it could take some time for it to resolve. In the meantime, in the interim, Megan is struggling to make to ends meet”, said their solicitor Roger Singh of Shine Lawyers.
Roger says there is no guarantee they'll receive compensation and in the meantime they need help.
For 14 months Centrelink denied Paul and Megan the help they needed but today, under public scrutiny, Centrelink General Manager Hank Jongen weighed in. “We encouraged her to lodge an appeal. As a result the review officer was able to make a determination based on fresh evidence which means that Mr Dodds, from now on, will get a full rate of pension”, Mr. Jongen said.
Megan says she was never asked to appeal and never made an appeal she was just sent a form as part of Centrelink's advice for her to get a divorce.
Make no mistake Centrelink has only changed this ruling because of the publicity. Megan believes there maybe up to 6000 young people in a similar situation to Paul and she's started the Dodd Foundation to help others like him. As for Paul and Megan they can now move forward. “I don't know what the future holds and I only hope for Paul we find somewhere nice for him to live in and I hope he gets supported by Centrelink”, Megan said.
For further information on Megan’s foundation to help people in Paul's situation, visit the website at: www.thedoddfoundation.org.au