Turning Tragedy into Triumph

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Sometimes the smallest thing can change the trajectory of your life forever. Whether that change is positive or negative is what you make of it.

Clayton Denny is at the peak of his career. He started off in the industry working as an operator for a contractor in a small mining town in Central Queensland, working and studying his way up the ranks all the way to Superintendent. He then took on a new challenge that landed him in the role he’s had for the last five years, as Regional Manager for Epiroc. His career is a success story by any measure.

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On Australia Day in 2021, Clayton’s story was almost cut short, and his life was changed forever. Fishing at South Stradbroke Island, he cut his foot on a reef. It was a tiny cut, and he didn’t think twice about it.

“It wasn’t until I got back home that I started feeling pretty miserable. I thought I must have come down with a bout of food poisoning,” said Clayton.

“It lasted all weekend and then when the kids, who were 14 and 15 at the time, went to school on Monday, I stayed home in bed. Sometime during the day, I got up and collapsed in the bathroom. That’s where my kids found me, just lying there gasping for air.”

Clayton was rushed to Maitland Hospital. No-one knew what was wrong as they waited for an intensive care ambulance to transfer him to John Hunter Hospital.

“At John Hunter I was put into an induced coma and was on life support. The doctor told the family I had a 5% chance of survival and to prepare for the worst. No-one thought I was going to make it.”

Clayton had septic shock from an infection caused from that tiny cut he got while fishing. Luckily, the doctors quickly identified the strain of the infection and administered the appropriate antibiotics. Clayton survived.

7 days later Clayton woke up. Not long after awakening he discovered his leg had been amputated from below his left knee.

“When I realised they had amputated my leg I had a real dark moment. I normally never have negative moments like that. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what my future would hold. All I wanted to do was get out of there and kill myself.

“That despair lasted maybe half a day, then something switched in my brain, and I accepted that this is the way I am now. I just have to deal with it.”

In the following months, Clayton dedicated himself to rehabilitation while remaining in hospital, learning to walk again, and preparing himself physically for a prosthetic leg. He went back to work in May, though he shared how he still struggled for months, constantly feeling tired.

“Epiroc were so great throughout all of it. They really looked after me and the family, I am so grateful to them. And it wasn’t just Epiroc, there were so many people in the industry that rang me up or came and saw me in hospital. People you wouldn’t expect to make the time and effort. I’m so thankful for all the support I received.”

After he recovered, Clayton felt he owed a debt, especially to John Hunter Hospital who saved his life. He got involved with Limbs for Life, becoming an advocate. More recently he has become involved with Amputees NSW.

“Being able to help other people navigate such a difficult time is important to me. I visit people from all over the world who have become amputees. It’s not counselling, you just rock up and be a friend. Someone they can talk to who has a shared experience. Because that’s what I needed in those early days. Someone who understood.

“My advice to anyone who has gone through a traumatic life changing event is to reach out. Find someone who’s been through your experience and can help you navigate it. But make sure they have a positive attitude and can help you find yours.”

Whilst the amputation changed Clayton’s life, he only sees all the ways it’s changed his life for the better.

When Clayton woke up, he also found out he had Type 2 diabetes. It led him to completely change his lifestyle, prioritising his health for the first time. As a result, he recently found out he has completely reversed the diagnosis.

As he got back on his feet – or as Clayton would say, back on his foot – he took a long hard look at his life, reevaluating what really mattered and what he truly cared about. He made the tough decision to leave a marriage of 20 years that was no longer the happy marriage it once was. He also rekindled his passion for music, something he never imagined he would return to.

A long-time friend of Hilltop Hoods and other Australian Hip-Hop artists, he got back working with them, which then led to working with other artists, helping produce music. He started DJing again, you may have even heard of him by his DJ name Cheques One. When he’s not putting out his own beats, he’s collaborating with others and has made a real name for himself on the Hip-Hop, House, Drum and Bass, and Techno scene.

“It’s skyrocketed,” said Clayton. “It’s been great getting my name out there and opening up for some big names. I love the new path my life has taken. I know I would never be on this ride if I hadn’t gone through such a life changing event.”

While he will continue to pursue his passion for music, Clayton won’t be leaving the mining industry anytime soon.

“Mining has been my whole life. Even though I’m doing so well with music, I love my job. I love working with my team and our customers, and so I want that to continue. I might ease off DJing, as I’m getting a bit old for it, but I’m going to continue making music and collaborating with people, there’s plenty of room in my life for both.”

So, when life throws you a curve ball, take a leaf out of Clayton’s book. With the right attitude adversity doesn’t have to be a stumbling block, it can be a stepping stone.

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Check out Clayton’s music by searching Cheques One on YouTube or Spotify.

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