Resilience Under Fire – Meet our Gold Coast Disability Expo Ambassador

McQuilty Quirke

Gold Coast Disability Expo Ambassador McQuilty (Coco) Quirke hopes to inspire others to rise up and live a fulfilled life despite challenges and setbacks.

At the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday 17th June, he will tell the story of his experiences as leader and company medic in East Timor and Iraq before coming home to nightmares and a reliance on alcohol that went along with post-traumatic stress. He’ll talk about recovery, in large part thanks to the love and support of his family, and how he was sent on his next tour of duty to Afghanistan. Then another crushing incident: on 13th August 2011, while on the roads, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated under his vehicle.

The first people to get to McQuilty’s side could see no signs of life. He’d been ejected violently through the rear hatch, flung 30 metres into the air, and landed headfirst on the roadside. With multiple injuries to every limb, a traumatic brain injury, and two shattered vertebrae, he was in a critical condition.

Over a short period of time, he ‘died’ several more times: once in the medevac helicopter before spontaneously coming around, again in lifesaving surgery where he was revived, and another time while being helivaced to a treatment facility in Germany. Following an emergency landing, he was revived once more.

Finally on 15 August 2011, he was admitted to hospital in Germany, just one day before his 31st birthday. By the time he arrived back in Australia at the end of August, stabilised and ready to commence rehabilitation, his future was still unclear.

With more than half a year in hospital and 32 operations (to-date), a casual observer might assume he could never again enjoy a life as ‘big’ as the one he’d lived before the explosion. Yet he defied the odds. Despite doctors’ suggesting that it would take up to 18 months to walk again on his severely injured left leg, he took his first steps three months post injury.

For McQuilty, it was never smooth sailing. He supported other family members through their health crises as they had supported him through his own, using these moments as motivation for growth.

In 2017, McQuilty went on to complete his Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science. Since graduating, he now works with training specialists ERGT as a helicopter underwater escape training instructor and safety diver, is employed as a National Rugby League Game Development Officer in North Queensland and coaches a team in the local Senior Rugby League Competition. He has also brought his unique perspective to junior representative teams, Townsville Blackhawks, and volunteered with the North Queensland Woman’s Gold Stars Squad.

Hear more of McQuilty’s dramatic story of hardship and recovery at the My Future, My Choice Gold Coast Disability Expo. He inspires and motivates due to his positive mindset and contagious belief that people can develop greater mental, emotional and physical resilience.

My Future, My Choice presents an opportunity for people with disability to control how they live now and plan for the future. Connecting thousands of people with hundreds of product and service providers, the expo presents a range of informative and interactive presentations.

The Gold Coast Disability Expo inspires people living with disability, family members and carers. Over 200 exhibitors present cutting-edge equipment, assistive technology, mobility aids, medical, health and support services, long term care options, and a variety of financial, travel, lifestyle, and sport options for people of all abilities.

During the two days, there will be a program of insightful topics from guest speakers, entertainment for all ages, live stage performances, a coffee van, and plenty of seating to socialise and chat.

Doors open for free entry to the massive two-day event from 9:00am to 3:00pm on 17 and 18 June 2022. Register your group to skip the entry queues. Check out what’s on the agenda for a schedule of events and parking/transport options as we get closer to the dates.