FOLLOWING more than a decade of rehabilitation after a car crash left him with severe brain damage, Queenstowner Jesse Boulay is determined to seize life with both hands.

Boulay, 28, spent nearly a year in a coma after a horrific crash on New Year’s Day, 2010.

Despite doctors’ prognosis he’d be permanently incapacitated, and dead within eight years, subsequent intense physio sessions, speech and occupational therapy have proven them wrong.

While no quick or easy process, Boulay learned to walk, talk, and care of himself again, buying and moving into his first apartment in 2014, and beginning his own clothing line in ’15, before working as a Fergbaker pie-maker, alongside an ACC support worker, for two years.

Boulay has long shown his resolve to ‘‘get out there’’ and live, and now crutch-less, social, and kitted with a good sense of humour, he’s striving for a new level of independence by searching for employment.

He says he’s keen for whatever opportunity may arise, and is excited to step back into the workforce.

‘‘I would like to go back to cheffing … [I enjoyed] it very much — mainly the people.’’

Occupational therapist Andrew Thompson’s been working with Boulay since ’14, and recently helped him approach local businesses.

He says the process is about recognising Boulay wants, and has a right to, work.

‘‘It’s facilitating opportunities for Jesse to participate in his community, ideally with work.

‘‘We’re really looking for an employer who can connect with Jesse and just go ‘I want to give this young man a go’, how can [he] help in someone’s business.’’

Boulay says the biggest challenge over the past few years has been navigating depression, which he attributes to the grief surrounding the crash.

While he says ‘‘it might not ever go away’’, he’s in the process of coming to terms with the accident and the reality of his life.

A driving force behind Boulay’s job search is finding meaning in his day, Thompson says.

‘‘[It’s about] just making a normal day, a normal week, a normal year.

‘‘Other than going to the gym and mates, there’s a bit of a hole … [he] wants to fill [his] life more.’’

After moving back into his family home earlier this year thanks to a broken arm, then selling the house he bought back in ’19, Boulay’s itching to get back the independence he found while living in his own place.

‘‘It was awesome — living there for a couple of years.

‘‘I did it all by myself … cooking and everything.’’

Now, his inner go-getter is shining through with a plan of action.

‘‘I want to move out, and it will feel like my life can start again.

‘‘First of all a new house … hopefully get a job … be around friends.’’

Go-getter: Jesse Boulay fine-tunes his hospo skills by making coffee for the team at Data Story every Tuesday

Currently a volunteer barista on Tuesdays at friend Dave Hockley’s business, Data Story, Boulay wants any prospective
employers to know an important part of his identity is being a Queenstown kid.

‘‘I’ve pretty much spent my whole life here.’’

For Thompson, it’s Boulay’s perseverance that sets him apart.

‘‘I think the most notable thing is just [his] personality — always, despite everything, [he] puts a smile on the dial.

‘‘He doesn’t give up.’’

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