Life took an unwelcome turn for Eamon McInerney last year while he was working on his family’s farm in Muntadgin in the Wheatbelt.

The 17-year-old had driven to the top of a hill for better phone reception. After giving his dad and some friends a quick call he made his way back down, neglecting to fasten his seatbelt. Taking a corner too quickly, Eamon lost control of the ute he was driving, rolling it several times.

He woke to find himself lying upside down and halfway out the ute window. Crawling from the wreckage of the vehicle, Eamon noticed an unusual pain in his back, like a rock was being jammed into his spine. He tried to stand up but his core felt like jelly and he collapsed. Eamon tried several more times but his legs were unresponsive.

Alone on the road and unable to move, he grew colder and began to shiver uncontrollably before the feeling was replaced with the sensation of warmth. In the distance, two headlights approached and Eamon said his heart skipped a beat.

“Waiting for those lights to reach me felt like the longest two minutes of my life,” Eamon said.

“When my Uncle arrived he asked me where it hurt and I remember telling him it was my back. He told me not to move and he drove off to get my Aunty and call an ambulance.”

He was transferred by helicopter to Royal Perth Hospital where he underwent surgery 12 hours after the crash. Doctors said he had a five per cent chance of walking again as initial X-rays showed he severely damaged his spinal cord, fracturing three vertebrae and completely shattering a fourth.

“I was a complete paraplegic – I had no movement, no feeling,” he said.

Eamon began rehabilitation at Fiona Stanley Hospital eight days after surgery. At first, he was unable to move but within two weeks he could wriggle his big toe. Slowly but surely, other victories followed as he took his first step and eventually was able to walk with support.

During Eamon’s rehabilitation process, the peer support program offered by the Paraplegic Benefit Fund (PBF) provided Eamon with ongoing support with daily issues and concerns that arose.

“To be able to talk to someone in the same situation gave me a strange sense of comfort and security,” Eamon said.

“I was able to get advice on a whole host of issues which were all new and some scary to me.”

Since Eamon’s discharge from hospital he has continued to be in contact with PBF peer support and more recently become involved as a presenter with the PBF Injury Prevention Program. He now visits and talks to school age children in the hope his story can contribute in some way to minimising the tragic loss of life and serious injuries caused by unsafe driving practices.

“I realise most teenagers, particularly boys, tend to think they are bullet proof, but I know from first-hand experience that you’re not,” he said.

He credits an amazing support network for helping him cope with this life-changing experience, particularly his nanna and dad, who have been by his side, literally, every step of the way.  Eamon’s journey has been well documented on his recovery journal Facebook page where he has received support and encouragement.

“It remains a great reminder for me of how far I have progressed since the surgery,” Eamon said.

As for the Elephant in the Wheatbelt campaign, Eamon believes making people aware of the statistics may change old habits.

“People in the Wheatbelt think they are invincible,” he said.

“They get slack about wearing seatbelts, speeding and drink driving. They think they can get away with it because there aren’t as many cops around.

“I used to think that it would never happen to me but road safety is something everyone needs to be conscious of.”

Eamon was involved in a major car accident in June and was told he would most likely never walk again. Two months later, he is racing in the 4km wheelchair race for the City to Surf. Eamon (17) & his father John McInerney at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Eamon was involved in a major car accident in June and was told he would most likely never walk again. Two months later, he is racing in the 4km wheelchair race for the City to Surf. Eamon (17) & his father John McInerney at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Eamon was involved in a major car accident in June 2015 and was told he would most likely never walk again. Two months later, he was racing in the 4km wheelchair race for the City to Surf.

Eamon was involved in a major car accident in June and was told he would most likely never walk again. Two months later, he is racing in the 4km wheelchair race for the City to Surf. Eamon (17) & his father John McInerney at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Eamon and his father John at Fiona Stanley Hospital.