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Australian Story -

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The Terminator - transcript

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 21 March , 2011

HUGH JACKMAN, PRESENTER: Hi, I'm Hugh Jackman, and I've done a few stunts and dangerous things in
my time, but nothing to compares with the guy you're about to meet. As a navy clearance diver, Paul
de Gelder routinely swims long distances in the middle of the night, often in shark infested
waters. Well, two years ago, as he was testing new sonar equipment in Sydney Harbour, he was
attacked by a shark. This is his Australian Story.

LT PAUL DARCEY, NAVY DIVE SCHOOL: When it comes to push-up competitions, rest assured Paul de
Gelder will win every time. He's one of the most mentally and physically tough blokes I've ever met
in my life. After they probably get over the initial shock of having a member of staff with
artificial limbs taking charge of them, it's just nothing but awe-inspiring.

PAT DE GELDER, MOTHER: He doesn't tolerate weakness. He doesn't think that people should be weak.
So there's no excuse, they can't say they're tired because Paul does it, so you have to do it as

JEREMY THOMAS, NAVY CLEARANCE DIVER: Everything we learned came into play that day. It took me 10
years to understand why they put us through that process, why it's as hard as it is. And you know,
another diver's alive because of it.

PAUL DE GELDER: It's one of man's primal fears to be eaten alive, so to think about the fact that I
have actually been eaten alive, maybe not whole but as a morsel or an entrée, it's a little bit
strange. I guess people would think it's a bit disturbing. People worry about me sometimes,
thinking that I haven't grieved properly or I don't vent efficiently or whatever but you make of it
what you will and you just, if you're going to keep moving forward then you try not to let it
bother you.

GLEN ORGIAS, SHARK ATTACK SURVIVOR: I think Paul would honestly tell you he's been through some
very tough situations. That's got to leave their mark on a man. When you lose a part of your body,
you sort of, you question yourself, you say, am I the man I was? And how can I be the man that I
was? How do I go about that?

DR KEVIN HO, PLASTIC SURGEON: I still wonder in the darker hours, where he's left to his own
thoughts on his own, how much of Paul de Gelder struggles with his lot; if he looks and he thinks,
you know, how life would have been different. How things are going to be in five, 10 years time.

PAUL DE GELDER: The first time back in the water there was absolutely no fear. None at all. It's
not something I worry about, being taken again. If it does, I probably won't be around after that
one, or the shark's going to lose some teeth. If you're going to enter their domain then of course
you take the risk, you know. It's their place, it's where they live, it's where they hunt, and if
you're going to enter that area then you're basically signing a waiver. Anything could happen. The
draw of the ocean for me was always too great. I accepted the risks always because I loved being
part of it. As far as I'm concerned, the closest that you can be to nature is being completely
submerged in the ocean. Basically I grew up in the Mornington Peninsula down in Victoria. Dad
taught swimming in his spare time, and we all grew up swim training and running amuck as four kids
do and then as I grew older and you get a little bit more adventurous you start doing things that
you're not really supposed to do.

STEVE DELLA COSTA, FRIEND: There was lots of any sort of stealing. We'd break into cars; we'd see
what we could get from cars. You're running from the police every now and then, smoking cigarettes,
smoking dope. He'd take a little bit of alcohol from his liquor cabinet, his parent's liquor
cabinet, and I'd do the same.

PAUL DE GELDER: Being a teenager I didn't enjoy it at all. I did find pleasure in doing things that
probably weren't very nice to think about as a parent. I cut my arms sometimes when I was feeling a
bit low or a bit aggressive. I got into smoking a lot of weed for a while, and that eventually led
to dealing weed. Working in hospitality led to other things like speed and coke and stuff like
that. For a while I was just a massive waste of space. I was sucking back a pack of smokes every
day, drinking all the time and smoking weed as much as I could get my hands on it.

STEVE DELLA COSTA, FRIEND: He wasn't sure about what he was going to do for a long period of time
and he was bouncing around from job to job, but he realised that hospitality wasn't his thing. From
what I see, Paul needed the regiment; he needed that sort of fixed agenda to be able to work
through all the things that he needed to do. It was all a little bit of a jumble for him unless he
had someone saying, this is what we need to do.

PAUL DE GELDER: Called mum and she put me on to my brothers, my younger brothers who are both in
the army. And they said yeah, yeah it's great, it's awesome. Just don't join infantry. So I joined

PAT DE GELDER, MOTHER: When I heard that Paul was going to join the army it was a huge surprise to
me. Anybody that knows Paul knows that he is the most undisciplined disciplined person that you
could ever wish to meet. He's undisciplined because he hates being told what to do, yet he will
follow direction and not ask questions. And I thought, wow, what's going to happen when they tell
him something and he's going to tell them where to go?

PAUL DE GELDER: It was one of the single most horrifying moments of my life when the corporal
started screaming at us and I knew that that was it. Life as I knew it was finished. I never
considered quitting basically because I had nothing to go to. Being in the army and having a steady
pay check and a job that you actually felt fulfilled doing opened up a whole new world to me and a
whole new way of thinking. And they said, does anyone here want to jump out of a plane? And I went
yeah, yeah, I'll put my hand up for that. In 2002 3 RAR was sent to East Timor to do peacekeeping
operations. The work there was really fulfilling, and to a point where when I got back all I was
thinking was, okay what's next? I need something to top that. And a mate of mine told me that he
was going to join the clearance divers and I thought, I don't know what it is but I'll do it with

LT PAUL DARCEY, NAVY DIVE SCHOOL: The clearance diving acceptance test is extremely tough, very
arduous, but it is designed to sort out the people that have the internal fortitude and the
physical attributes to get through clearance diving training. Typically 40 to 50 per cent will not

PAUL DE GELDER: And the more I found out about it, the more I loved it - putting bombs on warships,
clearing beaches, clearing mines, shipping lanes, harbours, underwater battle damage repair, you go
and get rid of improvised explosive devices. At that stage of my life I was completely happy. I had
everything that I wanted. It's just a big boys club. You know, if you love blowing stuff up and
shooting stuff and diving and you know, doing all those things that you dream of as a little kid,
then it's definitely the job for you. The guys knew that I was a bit scared of sharks. On deep
dives outside the heads of the harbour, one of those deep dives where you actually feel like a
little worm on a hook. And you'd be sitting at your, maybe your five metre wet stop just looking
around you, wondering what's going on, what could possibly come out of the murky depths. On the
11th Feb. 2009 we were doing a counter terrorism in Sydney Harbour at Garden Island. We were just
swimming around in the water while some sonar and diver detection vices were being tested and the
funny thing is they were actually videotaping the process as well. We were just operating as
surface swimmers, swimming backwards and forwards into the warships that were berthed at Garden
Island, pretending to be attack swimmers and before I even turned back I felt a massive whack in my
leg. I looked straight into the eye of a big shark. And we sort of stared at each other for a
couple of seconds before I reacted. And I tried to jab it in the eyeball with my right hand but I
couldn't move it. And after a couple of tries I looked down and actually saw that my hand was in
the shark's mouth as well.

JEREMY THOMAS, NAVY CLEARANCE DIVER: That day I was on the dive boat or the safety boat with two
others. I heard Paul scream. I could see the thrashing and I could see him getting moved about in
the water and straight away I thought, shark.

PAUL DE GELDER: And then we went under water and I was just, my mind was racing and I was, just
thought that was it, I was dead. I wasn't going to come back up.

JEREMY THOMAS, NAVY CLEARANCE DIVER: I could then see the struggle. They seemed to go underwater
for a couple of seconds. At the end of that there was a plume of blood that surfaced, followed by
Paul and the shark.

PAUL DE GELDER: And I came to the surface and just started swimming for all my life and as I took
my first strokes I noticed that my hand was gone but I didn't know how bad my leg was.

JEREMY THOMAS, NAVY CLEARANCE DIVER: So it wasn't until we got him in the boat that I'd seen,
actually physically seen the extent of the injury that I realised, yeah okay this is... you know we
could lose him here.

PAUL DE GELDER: I really wanted to know what was going on with my leg, but I knew that if I looked,
my body would go into shock if it was a horrible scene.

JEREMY THOMAS, NAVY CLEARANCE DIVER: I could see that his leg was... his right leg was bitten clean
to the bone. It looked like the wound was just enormous. His right hand was a piece of meat.

PAUL DE GELDER: Thomo thought I was dying so he started punching me in the chest and brought me
back and focused and concentrating on looking at him and talking to him. They stemmed a bit of the
bleeding. The guys in the boat definitely saved my life with their first aid skills. I have no
doubt in my mind.

JEREMY THOMAS, NAVY CLEARANCE DIVER: We all behaved exactly the way we were supposed to, it was
brilliant. It was shortly after that I guess the ambulance arrived at the wharf.

PAUL DE GELDER: And then I was just chatting up the nurses on the way into ICU and bribing the
doctors with cases of beer to save my leg.

STEVE DELLA COSTA, FRIEND: All I was worried about was that he wasn't going to make it. For about
two hours no-one gave me an answer and that was really stressful. That was... yeah it's scary. I
just kept thinking, this can't end like this.

PAUL DE GELDER: I just remember waking up, falling back asleep, waking up, falling back asleep, and
then eventually I woke up and I realised that I couldn't speak and I had a mouthful of tubes and
IVs in me. And yeah that was the start of a whole new life really.

PAT DE GELDER, MOTHER: My eyes went straight to his hand. And I think that was probably more
devastating than anything else, seeing that his hand was missing. My first impression was, oh my
god, how is he going to live his life? What's he going to do? He won't be able to do his job, his
job that he loves more than anything else.

PAUL DE GELDER: When I was wheeled into ICU my mates that were there on the day had called my
girlfriend Kim, and she came down straight away and basically stayed by my bed for the next two

PAT DE GELDER, MOTHER: Kim was the one person that was with Paul the whole time, day and night,
except when she maybe had to go to work. But she was the person that supported him more than
anybody else.

PAUL DE GELDER: The first thing I did was check to see if my leg was still there, and it was, which
made me really very happy. When Dr Ho told me that my best option was to have the leg removed, I
had a million flashes go through my mind in an instant of wheelchairs and crutches and people
staring and pity.

DR KEVIN HO, PLASTIC SURGEON: And it's very hard to tell a person who at the end of their bed can
look down and from the front surface see an intact leg and a foot and think how lucky they are, but
then have to tell them that that's going to have to come off because it's useless to you.

PAUL DE GELDER: In the end I just said, "Doc, take it. Make me a terminator." It was a very tough
stage, laying in the bed in complete pain and a huge swollen stump of a leg, no hand, thinking that
life's shit and how am I ever going to get through this? And I actually at one stage asked my mum
to go down to Kings Cross and buy a gun so I could shoot myself.

PAT DE GELDER, MOTHER: Paul was offered counselling, and actually we were all offered counselling
in the first couple of weeks, and Paul knocked it back. He said, "I don't need counselling. My
mates will tell me if I'm a dickhead."

STEVE DELLA COSTA, FRIEND: I was trying to keep him motivated and try and help him stay focused on
the things that he could do, rather than drown in the things that he couldn't do. So we were
speaking straight away about the kind of exercises he could do.

PAUL DE GELDER: Before I could get out of bed I was doing one arm chin-ups on the bar above my bed.
And I had Steve tie elastic bands all around the bed so I could do tension exercises and work my

DR KEVIN HO, PLASTIC SURGEON: Paul's ability to heal mentally and physically - nothing short of
astounding. He has an amazing pain threshold to get him to slow down from his rehabilitation. I
used to try to tell him that his recovery would take two times longer than what I thought, really
just to hold him back to where I was ready for him to push him to the next level.

PAUL DE GELDER: As soon as I could get a prosthetic leg I was trying to get it, even before they
recommended it I actually got my leg. If I could keep moving forward then I was always
accomplishing something and always taking my life back, and that's the goal.

KEVIN HARRISON, PROSTHETIST: Paul's progressed very, very well. He is now walking pretty much I'd
say without a limp. He gets along well. He can walk great distances and Paul puts in an amazing
amount of effort. Paul is like all the athletes and high end users I see, he just wants to be the
best he can be.

PAUL DE GELDER: The robot hand that I have is called an eye limb. It's also carbon fibre and black
plastic and looks pretty cool. It allows me to hold things and use implements and not burn myself
in the kitchen like I was before. I broke all the fingers off it once. I think I snapped it in half
another time. So while it's very useful it's quite fragile too.

STEVE DELLA COSTA, FRIEND: Who was beside him most over the past two years? It would have to be his
partner until recently, Kim. They've split because Paul wants to be his own man and experience life
on his own for a while. I would love to see them together. I don't think you'd get too many people
that would have stuck by Paul the way that Kim has, and has done the things that Kim has done for
Paul. So, you know, from where I'm sitting, it makes me scratch my head.

PAT DE GELDER, MOTHER: Paul doesn't tell us a lot. Whether he wants to protect us, whether he just
doesn't want us to know, whether he's got too much going on in his life. We all think that Paul's
become arrogant a bit more, it's like it's all about Paul sometimes.

STEVE DELLA COSTA, FRIEND: Sometimes it's really difficult to get through to the bottom of what
Paul is really feeling because sometimes Paul doesn't let you in. The accident's definitely changed
him. It's made him more stubborn, more focused, more motivated, and more determined, and probably a
little bit more closed at the same time.

PAUL DE GELDER: I think at times I can be an extremely hard-headed bastard. That's not me being an
actual bastard, it's just I know how I want things to happen. I know how I should accomplish
things, and I will not have anyone else do it for me.

STEVE DELLA COSTA, FRIEND: You walk down the street with him and everybody just stops and stares. I
always worry about him not really recovering mentally through everything and emotionally through
everything. I guess I just hope, from a friend's perspective, that if he's in need that he'll call

PAUL DE GELDER: There are moments of extreme frustration at times. But I really try not to let them
get to me, because then I'm just giving in to it. Not going to let it take me over and ruin my life
and turn me into a bumbling miserable wreck. I've got too many other things that I want to do, too
much that I want to accomplish, and I want to live a happy life. So that's what I do.

GLEN ORGIAS, SHARK ATTACK SURVIVOR: The connection between Paul and I is that we were attacked by
sharks on consecutive days and the attacks were just a few kilometres from each other. My hand was
amputated and my forearm was really badly damaged and then we ended up going to the same hospital.
After I spoke to him, I felt some of that confidence that he had in his life and in his future rub
off on to me. I actually felt like I could get back into things as well. I probably questioned
surfing again, whether I could do that. And, you know, I think that Paul's attitude is that, I can
do anything that I used to be able to do. And so that rubbed off on me a bit in regards to surfing
and helped me to get back into the water. That's been great for me; it's been a great positive sort
of mentor I suppose that he's been out there and been like that. It's, the way he is, is pretty

PAUL DE GELDER: It's been two years and my job now at work has progressed from working in
maintenance to assisting in the instruction of the ship's divers. I guess I would be a bit of the
safety specialist, the guy that has to really get up the trainees to make sure that they're doing
the right thing.

LT PAUL DARCEY, NAVY DIVE SCHOOL: With his injuries, I just thought that his diving career had come
to an end. He has convinced us absolutely that he can do more than we thought he could, and while
he's able to and while he still wants to, the navy will effectively employ him.

PAUL DE GELDER: My ultimate goal, no matter how far-fetched it is, is to be a fully operational
clearance diver again. Things would be harder with one hand, but I don't see anything as

LT PAUL DARCEY, NAVY DIVE SCHOOL: I think he'll be realistic. There's some things clearance divers
do that even he would find challenging. If he had his way, he would be back into it, all guns
blazing, but, you know, it's incremental. Take one step at a time.

PAUL DE GELDER: Going on operations overseas would be something that I would love to do again. At
the moment it's a no go. Maybe one day. My future is a bit uncertain. The navy may not be able to
provide for my sense of adventure.

DR KEVIN HO, PLASTIC SURGEON: The rest of the future for Paul is just a book that he's yet to
write. This injury that he's gone through, he may go on to live a far more fulfilling life than he
ever did, because he's realised what he's lost, he's not going to let anything stand in his way.
He's just ticking the boxes on things that he wants to do, faster than I'm sure anyone would
normally. I look forward to each episode that comes out.


Last year Paul de Gelder spoke at the United Nations in New York to promote protection of sharks.

In February, he won six medals at the Warrior Games sporting competition in the US for wounded
servicemen and women.