The 30-year-old has progressively lost his mobility because of Friedreich’s Ataxia – a rare condition that affects some of the body’s nerves.

“Friedreich’s Ataxia is different for everyone, but for me it’s all physical and once diagnosed, I soon learnt I wasn’t going to be able to do what I had planned in the future.

“Going from walking everywhere and having no issues moving round a home, to having to use a wheelchair and having difficulty getting through doorways was really challenging, says Dillon.

In 2016, Dillon relocated to Australia to gain new life experiences and to meet more people with the same condition.

“It was a great experience, but as my condition progressed, being independent became more difficult and I knew I needed to be closer to my family,” says Dillon.

After almost a year living in Australia, he came home to Mosgiel to live with his grandparents.

“I was grateful to have a place to stay, but because of where my condition had progressed to I found it difficult to get in and out of the house and do things for myself. So it wasn’t the best living situation.”

It was weighing on Dillon’s mind and he knew things had to change.

One of the personal touches Dillon has added to his Kainga Ora home

In 2018 Dillon was offered an accessible Kāinga Ora home in Dunedin, equipped with a ramp and level entry, wide door frames and hallways, a wet room and a kitchen he could navigate easily.

Now settled in his Kāinga Ora home, Dillon is thriving, his mental health has improved, his independence has been restored, and he has more time to devote to his passion for wheelchair sports.

A talented wheelchair rugby player and core member of the Otago ‘Wheelanders’ team, Dillon is focussed on growing the sport and, as president of ParaFed, inspiring the next generation of wheelchair athletes.

“One of the best things about living here is the location – I can attach my bike wheel to my chair and pedal down to the ParaFed office. That’s meant I can dedicate more time to increasing opportunities for young people to get involved in wheelchair sports across Otago.

“I’ve got a bus stop right outside my driveway to go to the supermarket or other places whenever I like too. It’s so good,” he says with a big grin.

As an avid gardener, Dillon has created an impressive garden, with a vegepod, in his sunny courtyard.

“With the current cost of living, I’m now growing my own veges to save myself a bit of money.

“If I’m stressed, I can feel my condition progressing, so having this home with all of its accessible features and a garden – it’s improved my wellbeing tenfold.” 

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Page updated: 31 January 2024