Skydiving accident survivor Elijah shows true resilience
With an eye firmly placed on a Paralympian future, each step NDIS participant Elijah Arranz takes is one step closer to reaching his goals.
Elijah Arranz has made giant strides in and out of his home after a sickening accident changed his life forever in 2015.
Elijah was just 14 when an unexpected gust of wind collapsed his parachute during a skydive, forcing him and instructor Tony Rokov, 44, to fall about 15 metres before hitting the ground in Goulburn.
Mr Rokov died instantly after heroically twisting his body around the teenager to protect him. Surviving the fall, Elijah suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, jaw, face, several breaks to his pelvis and ribs, as well as being left with a severe traumatic brain injury.
Linking with Feros Care to put together his National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) planning and funding since 2016, Elijah has been with Local Area Coordinator (LAC) Kirsten Black since August of last year, making great progress in his recovery.
“I’ve got a great relationship with Elijah’s family and we’re in contact for any issues that come up,” Kirsten said.
“He’s just a great kid and so energetic.”
The positive impact of the NDIS on participants’ lives
Sourcing funding for Ankle-Foot Orthosis (AFOs) to assist with drop foot condition, Elijah’s mother Robin Arranz said their family home has undergone home modifications, which were made possible through NDIS funding as well as Kirsten’s assistance.
“She’s awesome, we have a really good relationship and she’s extremely helpful,” Robin said of Kirsten.
“We’ve had kitchen modifications; they’ve knocked down a couple of walls to make it more open. It is completely open under the sink and stovetop, allowing Elijah to wheel himself under freely, and they have also installed a side-opening oven allowing it to be easy for Elijah to use.
“The doorways have been widened, the floors have been replaced, and they’ve put concrete out the front.
“We now have an island kitchen bench which is open underneath so he can wheel up to prepare food and meals. Elijah now cooks for the family including grandparents at least once a week; and so far, he’s done a curry, burritos and pasta.”
Elijah has had to learn how to talk and eat again as a result of his traumatic brain injury. Requiring a wheelchair most of the time, Elijah can only walk short distances using a walking frame, but that hasn’t stopped the now 18-year-old pushing himself to the limit.
With inspiration not hard to find, Elijah’s father Jose has assumed the role of family runner.
Lacing up his shoes since a week after the accident, Jose vowed to run every day until Elijah could walk again and has now done it for more than 1,500 consecutive days.
Elijah’s dedication speaks for itself
A promising athlete prior to his accident, Elijah has picked up where he left off, competing in the City2Surf with Joey, his mate and manager at his gym, who pushed him along the 14km course in August last year.
Competing in the event took Elijah full-circle, after he’d lined up as a 14-year-old where he managed the course in less than an hour – a goal he set out to achieve.
In the time since the event, Elijah is nearly back to using crutches, and his short-term memory has improved as well.
In December, Elijah, decked out in a maroon velvet jacket, hit the dance floor after graduating with his year 12 class.
Focussing mainly on rehab since, Elijah had his sights set on studying accounting or business at the Canberra Institute of Technology. However, after speaking at his former primary school, Elijah has recently been inspired to chase a future as a motivational speaker.
Although it’s been a long, hard road for Elijah, he has set a 12-month goal to be walking independently with either his crutches or roll-aider frame and is hoping to be walking fully independently within five years.
Driven by the memory of Tony and aiming to make him “proud in heaven”, Elijah has continued his physiotherapy, hitting the gym at least three days-a-week, as well as recently completing his first hydro session in a bid to swim again and learn water rowing.
“Elijah has rowed on a rowing machine every single day for over two years. Although he has no intentions of ever stopping his rowing streak, it would be great to get him in a boat on the water” Robin said.
Tracking his long-term goal of wearing the green and gold for Australia at the 2028 Paralympics, Elijah has zeroed in on lining up in either the 10,000 metres, half marathon or full marathon.
“That’s a massive goal and lots and lots of hard work will need to be done, but that’s his goal,” Robin said.
“He’s got a great attitude… everyone is just always in awe of him.”