Two years ago, 20 year old Australian student Monique Murphy fell from a 5th floor balcony at a University party in a fall that left her in a coma:
Monique recalls: “When I came out of the coma, the first people I saw were my parents and it was just instant confusion because I had no idea what had happened or where I was.”
“I woke up in hospital with a broken jaw in two places, a cut to my neck close to the main artery and windpipe, a broken left collarbone, a tear in my triceps tendon, three broken ribs and a tibial plateau fracture.”
“I woke up from a week long coma without my foot… I remember when I found out that I’d lost my foot my mum was with me and initially we were both in tears… and then I just said to her ’is that it?’”
“And she said ‘yes, that’s the worst of it’ and I was like ‘ok, I can do this.’”
Monique took a year to recover, never remembering what happened that night – whether her drinks at the party were spiked, or how she ended up falling off the balcony.
As a competitive swimmer before the fall, Monique first gave up on the idea of going back to swimming.
But then, she says “I had a visit from a volunteer from the Limbs for Life Foundation and he’s a below-knee amputee. He’s also a scuba diver and he told me that he had these big flipper legs and threw out the idea that I’d be able to get a mermaid leg made.”
“I was like ‘mum, I am going to be a mermaid!’”
“That was in hospital and I think in that moment I knew that if I wanted to get something like a mermaid leg I was going to have to swim to justify that.”
Monique got back to swimming, and experts at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Amputee Rehabilitation Service designed her “mermaid leg” to help with her training.
In the last year Monique has cut 13 seconds off her personal best for the 400m freestyle (without her mermaid leg!) and says “I’m faster now with one leg than I was with two.” She’s now ranked number one in the world for her event and today – just two years after her accident – this week Monique is competing in the Rio Paralympic Games.
Monique says: “To have this opportunity means everything to me. As a kid growing up I always dreamed of going to an Olympics. This has come around in a very different way than expected but it’s a second chance to go after my dream.”
Whatever events happen to you in life, take a tip from Monique, and know that provided you’re willing to keep going, you always get a second chance.
Good luck to Monique and all the inspiring athletes competing in #paralympics2016