It was two years ago in the middle of summer when Ashley Treseder decided to jump off a pier on the east coast of Australia into the crystal clear waters below, while his new fiancée Maddi watched from the shoreline.
But the perfect pin-drop dive he performed propelled him straight into the seabed at low tide, instantly breaking his neck and injuring his spinal cord.
Now 33, much has changed for the Newcastle resident who escaped death that day, with rigorous physical therapy sessions and gym workouts helping him regain upper body strength.
In addition to Ashley and his fiancée Maddi having to reclaim a new life in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic, Ashley and his fiancée Maddi later split.
“I remember not even scratching my face at first,” Ashley, or “Ash the Flash” as he goes by on Instagram, told Daily Mail Australia.
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It was two years ago in the middle of summer when Ashley Treseder decided to jump off a pier on Australia’s idyllic east coast (photo before the accident)
In addition to having to reclaim a new life in a wheelchair when a quadriplegic Ashley and his fiancée Maddi broke up
“Quickly on my way to now and I’ve been able to recover most of the upper body muscles that were gone.
“With the upper body strength that I work to maintain and improve on a daily basis, I have the function of comfortably getting safely to and from my wheelchair, to bed, to the couch, in the car and to switch seats. ‘
It was January 3, 2019, when Ashley and Maddi decided to spend a day cooling off by the sea in Shoal Bay, in the Hunter region of NSW.
They had planned their engagement party for the week after their vacation up north, but it’s a date they couldn’t keep.
Maddi was constantly at his bedside, giving him the “strength to wake up and make the most of the day,” he said.
Ashley had jumped off this pier more than 20 times before without incident — as hundreds of other kids and adults had done before him — but this time was different.
“I heard all the kids, people swimming and laughing, and everyone on the pier,” he said at the time.
“And all I could think was, ‘S***, I can’t move. I can’t swim. I’m going to drown.'”
Fortunately, a group of sunbathers came to his rescue before he was airlifted to the hospital, where his journey to regain his mobility would begin.
Maddi was constantly at his bedside, giving him the “strength to wake up and make the most of the day,” he said, and as a surprise, he even reorganized their engagement party two months after the original date.
“I’ve had two successful nerve and tendon transfers on both hands, turning my once paralyzed hands into semi-functional hands where I can now open and close my fingers to give me a grip,” Ashley said of his progress.
“This has definitely been a huge change because it has given me back so much independence that I can have hand function again.”
“I remember not even being able to scratch my face in the beginning,” Ashley (pictured in the gym), or “Ash the Flash” as he goes by on Instagram, told Daily Mail Australia
Fortunately, a group of alert beachgoers rushed to his rescue before he was airlifted to the hospital, where his journey to regain his mobility would begin.
He also has feeling on the right side of his body again, but can’t move anything below the waist.
“I remember saying very early on that if I could choose between my hands and my legs being paralyzed, the hands would be easy,” he said.
“So I’m extremely grateful to the surgeons who operated on me and that I even qualified for the surgeries, like not all spinal cord patients.”
Ashley, a care worker with a disability by profession, used to care for two men in wheelchairs. Now, on the other side of the coin, he has a fresh outlook.
“My accident certainly opened my eyes to many things that customers would ask or need, but I’ve never been able to understand why,” he said.
During Covid, Ashley was home alone during the day for the first time in years – while his mother chose to move back to her own place while she worked in the public health sector – but he soon discovered the comfort was a blessing in disguise.
“It enabled me to learn to enjoy my own company again,” he said.
“I remember saying very early on that if I could choose between my hands and my legs being paralyzed, the hands would be easy,” he said (pictured jumping off the same pier a year before the accident)
During Covid, Ashley was home alone during the day for the first time in years – while his mother chose to move back to her own place while she worked in the public health sector – but he soon found the comfort was a blessing in disguise.
In a typical week, Ashley spends three days working—with the same employer he had before the accident—three strength sessions a week at the gym, wheelchair rugby training, and a match every two weeks.
Sports and sports were both big parts of Ashley’s life before that fateful summer day and they still are today.
“I discovered my passion for wheelchair rugby and joined the NSW Gladiators,” he said.
“I played football for 26 years, so to play in a team environment again is great for my mental health.
“The physical health benefits of rugby training and sports speak for themselves when I consider the amount of function and strength I have built up since the accident.”
Despite his challenges, Ashley has not lost his enthusiasm for life, the ocean and relaxing in the sun.
Ashley’s GoFundMe page, created in 2019, has raised $93,000 to help support his ongoing medical expenses
“I’ve learned that instead of feeling miserable about the things I’ve lost, I can put all my energy into whatever I have left and that so many others were worse off than me and would love to hold the position I have,” he said.
“But I’ve also learned that it’s okay to be sad sometimes, but not think about it.
“So I made a rule that I still abide by. I set a 10 minute timer where I can leave everything off. When the time is up, I’d suck it up and move on.”
Ashley’s GoFundMe page, created in 2019, has raised $93,000 to help support his ongoing medical expenses.
He’s looking forward to getting his custom car delivered in January, giving him the freedom to go wherever he wants, whenever he wants, without the help of taxis.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to unlock that bit of independence and live my best life,” he said.