Bulletproof: Scott

Motocross enthusiast Scott MacDonald was just 14 when he broke his back on a bad jump. Now his 6-year-old son, Oakly, wants to get into the sport.

Motocross enthusiast Scott MacDonald was 14-years-old when he broke his back after a jump went wrong. Despite living with paraplegia, he was always determined to get back on the motocross track. With some kiwi ingenuity and modifications he’s managed to ride again, and has even built his own backyard track. 

Now 27, Scott is still an adrenaline junkie - and a Dad to 6-year-old Oakly. Oakly is following in Scott’s footsteps and already showing promise on a motocross bike. Scott’s new challenge is navigating the sport as a parent - encouraging Oakly, while giving him strong guidance and safety precautions.

Riding motocross at every opportunity was the meaning of life for Scott and his friends - such was the enjoyment, that they spent the majority of their time on home made tracks on Bay of Plenty farmland.  

But one February afternoon in 2008, Scott was taking his last spin of the day around a track with friend Joe Thomas.

Scott lies on a dirt track, surrounded by medics as they assess his injuries

“Scott overcooked the jump,” Joe says “I think he got a bit too excited on the gas, showed off a little bit.”

Scott doesn't remember hitting the jump, “I just remember waking up and having Joseph there.”

Approaching Scott on the ground, Joe didn’t initially think it was too bad. 

“I got him to take his helmet off and I saw blood coming out of his ear,” he says, realising “it was something quite serious.”

Scott was in and out of consciousness and describes the feeling as if he had a rock under his back. While paramedics knew straight away his back was broken but it wasn’t until he was at Tauranga hospital the full extent of the accident was clear; he’d fractured T7, T8 and T10 and needed two rods inserted into his spine.

An x-ray of Scott's spine showing two plates and eight screws

The following months saw Scott come to terms with his situation like surely only a teenage boy can, saying “When I first had the injury I was pretty stoked with it because I was like sweet I don’t have to go back to school. Don't have to mow the lawns, feed the dogs. Just get to cruise around.”

That early acceptance and novelty turned to determination when he was transferred to the Otara spinal unit and through rehab started to gain movement; first kicking legs, then getting feeling back in his toes. 

Scott puts his desire to get back on a bike down to his youthful approach to life. “Being young, I was just like ‘everything will be sweet as, I’ll be fine’ and just carried on” and made sure the owner of the track didn’t demolish it saying “I’ll be back.”

After two and a half years of physio Scott could stand and walk with crutches and was living what he describes as a semi normal life, then welcoming son, Oakly with girlfriend Brittany at age 20.

Scott stands next to his wheelchair holding his balance on the kitchen bench.

“The wheelchair never phased me,” says Brittany. “I think when you like someone, you like them for the personality and who they are, not just the outer able bodied shell.”

She says Oakly takes after his father and while becoming a dad was scary, Scott also felt the excitement at the same time and they knew very early on that Oakly would follow his push for life.

“At two weeks old I’d do a wheelstand and just tuck him into my body and do wheel stands on my chair and so he’s always just learnt balance” Scott says.

“He understands the fact I’m in a wheelchair… and understands I need a little help.”

Living with chronic kidney failure himself, Oakly still loves getting out on the bikes with Scott. Diagnosed in the womb, one kidney is smaller than the other and Oakly will likely need a transplant later in life. But Brittany and Scott agreed early on that you can’t bubble wrap your kids, so instead they’re teaching him to ride safely.

Scott rides his modified quad bike on his home built motocross track

Scott built his own riding track in the backyard. It’s a bonding experience for father and son pairing, one Scott uses to teach Oakly to ride within his limits. 

“If he doesn't want to ride, then he doesn’t have to ride, but the fact that he does enjoy it is cool, it means we have something to enjoy together.”

“He's a pretty good rider, for a six year old. We practice at home. Jump practice, cornering practice, teach him where to stand properly and different body positions to ride safely. Always telling him not to be showing off, watch where you’re going.”

 

With a philosophical tone in his voice, Scott reflects on where his life has taken him.

 

“My life would be a whole lot different, but I suppose this is just what was meant to be and I’ve just taken it on the chin and made it as possible as I can. Oakley, I hope he stays interested in motocross… we just tell him, think about what you’re gonna do, don’t just rush in and do it. Look at it, take your time and make sure it’s safe.” 

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