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inform issue 29 - Summer 2019

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In this issue of Inform we celebrate Dean

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6 informonline.org.au Feature Every morning Dean Clifford spends three to four hours tending to his body. He checks his hands and feet, his elbows and knees. Far from being exceptionally vain, Dean’s morning routine is how he ensures that he can do the motivational speaking that takes him around the world. It's also how he ensures he can work as an ambassador for DEBRA Australia and spend hours a week in the gym, lifting what he describes as extreme weights. ‘It's a fairly full on process but I've got it sort of figured out, so I know what my limits are, I know how far I can push myself,’ he said. Dean was born in 1979 with a severe version of Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa, or EB as it’s commonly known, a genetic skin condition that causes the skin to be incredibly fragile. ‘As long as I can remember I’ve been doing the bandage routine every single day, which is about four hours every morning. ‘It's just a matter of working out every single morning what I need to do to get the best out of my skin. ‘I describe [EB] as kind of like a loaf of bread. If you've got pieces of bread stacked one on one on top of each other, you could just push out the middle layer because there's no butter or nothing to hold all the layers together to keep the strength and consistency there, so my skin doesn't have the anchors to hold it together. ‘My skin is incredibly fragile. It’s in the medical books as having the strength and consistency of basically tissue paper.’ To help heal and protect this delicate skin, Dean needs to regularly change his wound dressings with the subsidised dressings and bandages he receives from a government scheme called NEBDS*. ‘To not have to worry about how I am going to access the dressings and medical needs, well no words can accurately sum up how great that feeling is.’ ‘But, I've got to be incredibly careful about absolutely every part of my life.’ When he was initially diagnosed, Dean’s parents were told he’d be unlikely to live beyond three or four years old. Today, after celebrating his 40th birthday in Las Vegas late last year, Dean says he enjoys proving the medical experts wrong. ‘They said by the time I was four my quality of life would be so bad that life wouldn't be great. The outlook that was given to my parents wasn't great at all, to be staring down surviving to be three years or fouryears-old so yeah, it's something that I've sort of classed as a bit of a personal hobby

Feature informonline.org.au 7 of mine to prove all the medical world wrong and be able to still be living a really quality, high standard, quality life and be able to achieve everything that I'm achieving these days.’ And what he is achieving is pretty remarkable. From the airwaves to the speaking circuit Two hours north west of Brisbane is the Queensland town of Kingaroy. It’s a small town with some big claims to fame, being home to Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden and naturalist Bob Irwin. It’s also where Dean Clifford grew up. And it’s where the seeds of his successful motivational speaking career where sown. ‘Straight out of school I was really lucky that the local radio station invited me to come along to work part-time,’ Dean said. ‘That eventually led me to talking a little bit about my life living with EB on air and in some of the radio programs.’ Soon, Dean was regularly working on air, co-hosting several radio programs. As his profile grew, organisations within the community started to get in touch and he began speaking at events and MC’ing. And the more Dean shared about his life, the more people around him told him how amazing his story was and encouraged him to look at doing motivational speaking. ‘I sort of was just blown away by the compliment, but I thought there wasn't anything really special about my life story,’ he said. But the idea stayed with him and years later, after what he describes as some difficult stages in his life, he thought maybe he did have something worth saying, a story worth sharing, some tools and tips that might be useful for others. ‘I started to think about my life and think about what mental tools I've used and what things I've learnt. From there I came up with the idea for my first presentation and that was incredibly well received,’ he said. ‘I've got to be incredibly careful about absolutely every part of my life’ With eighteen months, Dean was travelling around the country, receiving phone calls from the Prime Minister and speaking to groups as diverse as high school students and the Australian Federal Police. ‘[It] sort of happened very organically but incredibly fast from that first presentation.’ Dean says for most people his presentation is a slow burn. The mental tools he uses in his day-to-day life stick in the minds of the people he speaks to and when they face challenges in their own lives, those tools come back to them. ‘My presentation isn't something that you walk out of the room thinking okay, now I know how to make a million dollars. It's not that kind of presentation. It's just a real-life discussion. I'm sharing my story. I'm not putting myself up on a pedestal or thinking that I've got all the answers to the world, I just share my story, how I overcome all the challenges that I face. ‘It's been an amazing journey and something that I absolutely love these days.’