A warning from a victim of carefree youth
Turn on the six o’clock news most days of the week and you’ll more than likely be bombarded with images of pain and despair.
It’s pretty easy to become desensitised in the journalism caper, but recently a 23-year-old quadriplegic served me a serious reality check.
Producing a talkback program comes with a healthy dose of climate change scepticism, asylum ranting and political debunking.
The tragic death of Brisbane student, Whitney Heuvel, whose daredevil stunt on the Eleanor Schonell Bridge whilst ‘skylarking’ with friends, has stirred opinions on the airwaves.
Whitney reportedly asked his friends to film the ill-fated stunt.
Whilst looking for an authoritative voice on the issue, I came across Kieron D’Netto.
Five years ago Kieron was doing what he loved most, having fun with some of his closest mates on the Gold Coast. Most weekends were rounded off with a daring jump off the Macintosh Island Bridge.
Until one fateful day.
In a momentary lapse in thought, the plucky teenager grabbed a close-by boogie board and leaped over the bridge railing. When Kieron hit the water he knew straight away. The impact broke his neck immediately and rendered him unconscious.
If it wasn’t for the last ditch efforts of close friend, Nathan McKay, who scooped him out of the depths, Kieron knows he wouldn’t be here today.
He is now strapped to a wheelchair, utterly dependent on his single mother Elaine. A business owner who was forced to give up her job to become a full-time carer for her only son.
When he spoke to our Michael Smith, the phones fell silent, and we all listened to the tragic tale of the fearless youth in all our pasts.
When the BBC called later than night, I was presented with the opportunity to meet with Kieron face-to-face.
When I arrived at the D’Netto home, its normality caught me off guard. The single-story building did not flaunt the trimmings of special attention.
Kieron may be confined to a remote controlled chair, but his passion for life almost leapt up to greet me.
Every day life does not come without its struggles. He needs assistance to feed himself, to bathe, to go to the bathroom, the basic every day tasks of which we give no second thought. In his words, he lost his right to dignity.
As a quadriplegic Kieron may not be able to live a ‘normal’ life, but he is yet to give up on his chance to educate others.
A few months after the accident, Kieron returned to the Macintosh Island Bridge. In a horrifying case of déjà vu, a group of teenagers were bridge jumping at the time.
One youth was headed for the bridge with boogie board in hand. Kieron yelled out from his wheelchair: “I hope you’re not planning on jumping.”
The boy looked back and said, “What’s it to you?” before turning his back on the boy strapped to his chair.
The ignorance doesn’t surprise Kieron, he might have reacted a similar way all those years ago. But that won’t discourage him using his last remaining asset - his voice - to help whoever will listen.
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