In the Media

John Duthie became a paraplegic, then his wife left him for his nurse. Now he has found a new sense of purpose — with the ex-wife of the nurse who betrayed him

 Andrew Dowdell | Adelaide Advertiser

PARALYSED and almost killed in a freak accident, then abandoned by his wife for the male nurse who oversaw his rehabilitation, John Duthie’s life had hit rock bottom.

But in a bizarre twist of fate, the paraplegic father-of-two has found renewed joy — in the arms of the ex-wife of the nurse who betrayed his trust.

Mr Duthie, 52, has spoken out about the rollercoaster of pain, betrayal and redemption he has ridden since the fateful afternoon of September 11, 2009.

As large trees swayed in northerly winds of up to 90km/h, Mr Duthie’s last memory is moving to stop a soccer ball being chased by a child — then a void that would last for more than a month.

A large tree branch crashed into his back, splitting open his head, severing his spine and bruising his heart — triggering a tense month in Royal Adelaide Hospital before he was moved to Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre.

Slowly comprehending that he would never walk again, Mr Duthie said a smiling male nurse stood out among his caregivers.

“He seemed to be the nurse that took the most interest in me and my family, he was very friendly and happy which was welcome in there,” Mr Duthie said.

Mr Duthie said the nurse continued to visit his family home even after his release from Hampstead after 15 months, helping out with manual tasks and acting as a mate.

But he never suspected his “friend” was actually having an affair with his wife of almost 20 years.

“He gave the impression that he was there to help me and my family, and I quite welcomed that because I didn’t realise at the time that maybe it was a bad idea for medical practitioners to do that sort of thing,” Mr Duthie said.

In January 2012, after Cedar College was fined $110,000 in the Industrial Court for not removing the dangerous tree, Mr Duthie described his life as “terrible”.

“Still, things can only get better,” he said.

John Duthie is pictured with partner Madie. John is sitting in his wheelchair wearing a Dignity Party t shirt and black pants. Madie is wearing a cream cardigan and yellow patterned scarf, she is standing next to him, looking at him and smiling, she is holding a port power scarf draped over John with the words never tear us apart written. John is smiling at the camera.
 Port Adelaide fan John Duthie and his partner Madie now find extra meaning in their club’s unofficial song, Never Tear Us Apart.

 

So even when his wife moved out of the family home months later, Mr Duthie said he still did not suspect she and the nurse were together.

But after finding a letter written by his wife on the home computer and tracking mobile phone records, Mr Duthie realised she and the nurse had been having an affair since he was in hospital.

Mr Duthie said he would have been able to cope with the breakdown of his marriage — but not the circumstances — leading to him making an official complaint against the nurse for professional misconduct.

“It was just the fact that she had betrayed me, and when I found out it was the nurse, I thought he was my friend and I just thought ‘why are these two people doing this to me?’,” he said.

The nurse was last month deregistered following a lengthy investigation by the SA Health Practitioners Tribunal, which found he had engaged in a “duplicitous and destructive” breach of trust.

The nurse and Mr Duthie’s ex-wife both denied their relationship had commenced until well after his release from Hampstead, however phone and social media records obtained during the investigation proved they had lied.

Mr Duthie said while the investigation dragged on for several years, he was left to deal with being alone, in a wheelchair and with no partner and two teenagers to care for.

At his lowest ebb, he stockpiled his stash of painkilling drugs on the bed and considered downing the lot and end his own life.

But his ex-wife found him, and after a brief stint in hospital, Mr Duthie returned home and soon after found a Facebook friend request from a woman called Madie — the woman the nurse had left to move in with his wife.

Now a couple in their own right, Madie told The Advertiser she first went to Mr Duthie’s home out of concern when he posted about his despair on Facebook.

“I turned up and he was very upset, and I said would you like a hug and he said ‘yes please’, and that is how it started,” Madie said.

The unlikely couple began spending more time together before Mr Duthie finally revealed his true feelings on his 47th birthday.

“I gave him a hug and a kiss on the face and he gave me the biggest hug ever and said ‘I think I love you’ — I said ‘I like you too, maybe I love you too, I am not sure just yet’,” Madie recalled.

“I said to him you can always count on me, I have a nursing background and have been helping him through thick and thin, and I would never turn my back on him, that’s for sure.”

Madie said the relationship was still developing and described Mr Duthie as kind, intelligent and with “more energy than anyone I know”.

“It’s not like a normal couple because he is paralysed, we don’t live together and we don’t share things together but he is always there for emotional support,” she said.

“He has been for me every time I am down — he is the stronger one. I am a very emotional person, and he is just there.”

Mr Duthie’s emotional recovery has coincided with his physical rebirth, which has seen him fight through the pain barrier to become an accomplished swimmer.

When able-bodied, he was able to swim two laps of a 25m pool — but now has a personal best of 38 laps and counting.

A staunch supporter of Port Adelaide, Mr Duthie is a regular at the Power’s home matches and plans to run for parliament as a Dignity Party representative at next year’s state election.

On top of that, Mr Duthie is also writing a book about his ordeal, which he hopes will encourage others struck down with sudden disabilities not to give up on life.

Mr Duthie said his faith in God — though sorely tested for several years — had provided a foundation to his mental recovery.

“If I didn’t have faith, or children or a partner, I’m not sure where I would be or even if I would still be around,” he said.

Mr Duthie said he remained as surprised as anyone that he and Madie had become partners — adding he had believed his dating days were over when his wife left.

“Because my wife rejected me because I was disabled, I didn’t think that I would ever get into a relationship again,” he said.

“So I didn’t think I would be really end up with anyone, but who would have predicted getting into a relationship with the ex-wife of the nurse? I mean, that seems like a work of fiction.”

Mr Duthie said he initially felt embarking on such a relationship felt wrong, but later decided “yeah, why not?” – and has never regretted it.

“She doesn’t reject me because I have a disability of criticise me about anything to do with my paralysis or that I can’t do something,” he said.

“She is always encouraging me for things that I can do, and that makes a big difference in my life.”