A momentary distraction resulted in a horrendous motorcycle accident that changed the life of Alex Eleftheriou, a 17-year-old apprentice carpenter studying at VU’s (then) Newport campus.
The margin for error on our roads is ever so small, a two second visual distraction at 50 kilometres an hour means you will travel 27 metres blind, and at 100 kilometres an hour it's double that. The question is not what could you miss. It is what will you hit?"
After nine months in hospital, a 21 day induced coma, broken bones, spinal cord damage and all the associated trauma of a near-death experience, followed by years in residential accommodation, he chose to accept that this was his new life and to make an impact.
It was not like breaking a leg. If it was, my leg would mend and life would go back to normal. My injuries meant that I had many challenges to face and to overcome. But the urge was strong and I felt I could contribute more to life – mine and other people like me."
Back to study
To have the opportunity to get out of home and mix with people was just what I needed. The teachers were amazing and I still keep in contact with them. My carer, Georgia, helped me with note taking and all kinds of support. She loved the course. She was just like another student."
Then Alex realised there were other things he wanted to explore. From the advocacy work and road safety campaigns he was doing with the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), he found his passion and enrolled in the this year.
Gaining more knowledge and experience in this area has made me want to invest in studying. I would like to continue to do a PhD as I see a future in advocacy and counselling."
Accessibility on campus
Alex says, "
VU’s Footscray Nicholson campus was really accessible. There was only one time that I could not get through a door, but the teacher responded quickly and the room was changed. The course was face-to-face and online, and I can participate fully."
A brighter future
I’ve met people who consider their injuries to bethe be all and end all of their life. But I recognised I was a Year 10 drop-out and now, against all odds, I can do this!
"In September, it will be ten years since my accident and I can say that after facing this life-changing event, I have proven that it is possible to positively change my life and work with other people who might be in a similar situation.
"Generally, I am happy and settled but we all know that life can be a rollercoaster with trials and tribulations. I feel that being positive is contagious, so I try to brush off any negativity and be a force of positive energy in people’s lives.
"Life is a process and sometimes progress can seem slow, but it is still progress.
"I would really like to work as a mental health advocate. Overcoming the barriers to being open and honest about these issues is a crusade that I am working on!"
Alex’s goal is to publish a book with the working title, `You think you have got it bad…’. To produce it, he interviews survivors of cancer, accidents, PTSD and other traumatic events, and demonstrates how they have changed their outlook in life.
I want to advocate that we can all change, survive and strive to make the word a better place. We can change our mindset and bring about positive change. Many people think that living with a disability means you do not have a voice. But I want to speak out loud and clear and encourage others to do the same."
Alex has plans to embark his next career in writing, public speaking and youth work, along with that PhD.