From the operating theatre to the bowling green: Jim Dwyer’s remarkable story
After a life-changing accident at his work, Jim Dwyer has had to battle back to get into the sport he loved.
Story by Bowls Australia
Bowls, a sport that fails to discriminate.
That sentiment has never rung truer than in the case of Jim Dwyer.
Having been involved in the sport since 2003, beginning at Cutheringa Bowls Club in Townsville, Jim’s position with the Royal Australian Air Force saw him later playing in both Brisbane and Darwin before returning to reside in Townsville and once again play at Cutheringa.
In August 2017, while performing routine work on a runway in Townsville in his role with the RAAF, the 57-year-old was involved in a gruesome accident, with life-changing consequences.
After what he described as a “bloody big machine” fell on him after he was knocked off-balance while working on a truck, his right leg below the knee was immediately amputated while his left leg narrowly avoided the same outcome, with damage only to his left foot.
The result would be a bionic limb for his right leg and a left leg heavily damaged around the foot area.
“Wherever I went, I played bowls, it became a huge part of my life,” Jim said.
“I was a very average bowler but I was just starting to hit my straps (before the accident)… I just wanted to become a regular first-grade bowler.
“I was sort of getting there too… Getting the odd game in first-grade and then back to second-grade and then back up to first-grade etc.
“Things were really looking up for me before the accident.”
In hospital for just over three months and having faced numerous operations to save his left foot, Jim was released just before Christmas and remarkably, ‘wheeled’ his way out onto the green by mid-late February.
“The first thing I wanted to do when I got out was to have a beer and have a bowl. Obviously, that took a long time,” he said.
“Queensland Sporting Wheelies organised for me to borrow a wheelchair until I could organise my own (which is still in the pipeline).
“Everyone wanted me to come and have a few games. We had a very short night competition (at Cutheringa) here early in the year, so I actually played in that with a lot of help.
Still learning to walk again and having endured yet another operation on his left foot just recently, Jim is adamant on gradually increasing his playing time on the green with an aim to participate in more social bowls, and even pennant down the track.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to bowl from a normal stance because my left ankle is fused,” he said.
“I can stand for small periods and walk short distances but there’s no way known that I’d be able to walk for a game of bowls.
“But that’s what the chair is for… I should have my own (chair) in the next month or so.”
Jim’s story is quite the inspiration and he’s even been recognised by the Invictus Games, where he will be telling his story as part of a forum prior to next month’s event in Sydney.
The Invictus Games is an international multi-sport event created by Prince Harry, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sporting events akin to an Olympic or Commonwealth Games.
Jim was excited about the chance to share his story and share the Invictus experience with his wife, Virginia whom he spoke glowingly of.
“I don’t know if I’ll meet Prince Harry or Meaghan!”
“The good thing about this symposium is that they want Virginia to come.
“They want her to be a part of it too given how it affected her and the support she received while I was in the hospital.
“She has been sensational. I’ve seen a whole other side of her.
“It’s been so hard on her, not that she admits it… She’s been magnificent.”
The story of Jim Dwyer is profound.
It’s hair-raising and you’d have to be emotionless not be left feeling inspired, while there’s no doubt you would d be also left feeling a little guilty.
Jim’s go-getting attitude following such a horrific moment in his life is a lesson to all, bowler and non-bowler, that absolutely anything is achievable with the right attitude.