Amputee is chopping down life's hurdles
NICK Fredriksen lost his arm when he was eight years old, but he is yet to find anything he can't do.
The Kilcoy father is now a champion in the hard-slog sport of woodchopping, and donates some of his prize money to LifeFlight, the service that has airlifted him to medical aid twice.
Nick has pledged to fundraise for the charity (formerly known as CareFlight) during this year's show season, and is already off to a cracking start with his recent win at the Stanthorpe Show Woodchopping Competition.
On April 6, 1994, aged eight years old, Nick's shirt was caught in a hay baler in an accident that resulted in the loss of his arm.
He was working on his family farm at Sheep Station Creek, near Kilcoy.
Nick's father, Alan, described how he grabbed Nick and ran to the house after seeing the horrific accident, then quickly returned to the shed to collect his son's arm.
"I placed Nick (and his arm) in the car to drive towards Kilcoy,” he said.
"Queensland Ambulance Service met me just outside of Kilcoy and I drove the ambulance myself to the hospital while the QAS paramedics treated Nick in the back.”
He was then airlifted from Kilcoy Hospital to Brisbane's Royal Children's Hospital, where Nick began his long recovery for the weeks that followed.
Nick cheated death a second time when he fell through glass louvers almost exactly nine years later, at the age of 17.
His other arm was injured as a large piece of glass deeply punctured the vein above his elbow.
This second accident came only three days before the nine-year anniversary of his first experience with helicopter rescue services.
This time it was his mother, Marie, who was involved in his medical retrieval and administering initial first aid.
Today, Nick is a qualified heavy-plant operator, an accomplished swimmer competing at national swimming titles, and Australia's (and possibly the world's) only competitive arm amputee woodchopper.
He is still a vital member of his family's beef cattle, sheep and hay contracting business.
He said the physical work on the property kept him in good shape for woodchopping.
"Pretty much any physical labour really helps you out,” he said.
He is yet to find anything on the farm he can't do because of his disability.
"There are some things that present a bit of a challenge, but I can normally work around it,” he said.
"I was only eight when I lost my arm so I grew up adjusting. I managed to breeze through a little easier than if someone lost their arm as an adult.”
He first picked up an axe when he was only four years old but after his accident he needed to relearn the skill.
"I would have been about 10 when I started again,” he said.
"There wasn't anyone else I could compare to so I just learnt myself.”
He now travels to regional shows and competitions around Australia and New Zealand - including the Brisbane Ekka and Sydney Royal Easter Show - and has notched plenty of wins against able-bodied woodchoppers.
"I'm very dedicated to this sport and think it's important to encourage others not to hold back in getting involved with things like this,” Nick said.
"It's really a case of mind over matter.
"If you let a disability like mine get to you, it's hard to move on and you can't achieve what you want to achieve in life.”
He has even inspired his daughter, Maddie, aged 11, to compete in woodchopping.
As well as competing in individual events, they join forces in the Jack and Jill team sawing mixed event.
"There are other kids her age doing it, so she is sort of getting the bug for it,” he said.
"We are starting to see young women and girls get involved in the sport, and actually seeing them chopping not only using the crosscut saw.”
As a proud dad, Nick said it was rewarding to be in a team with his daughter - she is a third generation woodchopper in their family.
"Whether or not she will stick with it, I don't know.
"She also has her dance and swimming. It's one of those things that takes a lot of time and she still wants to be a kid.”
LifeFlight community engagement manager Vicki James welcomed the new association with Nick and his pledge to fundraise for the organisation in 2017.
"Nick is such an inspirational human being, who has managed to pass on his great passion for the sport down to his daughter, Maddie,” Ms James said.
"It's been a fantastic start to the year with Nick's first-place accomplishments at the Stanthorpe Show, and we at LifeFlight look forward to working together to fundraise even more in 2017 for our lifesaving charity organisation.”
Nick said LifeFlight had made a difference to his life, so he wanted to put the word out and get more people involved.
He has started a Facebook site to share his competitive journey in woodchopping.
Search "Nick Fredriksen, One Arm Woodchopper”, to follow his story.