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When I first started playing for the Lightning back in 2002 (wow, that’s a long time ago), one thing I loved was the fact that most of my family and friends could come and support our games. I’ll never forget my very first game at Wayville Stadium versus the Canberra Capitals when my Grandad and Grandma arrived before any of the players even got there, something like 2 hours before the game started, saying they “wanted to get good seats”! For those that don’t know, Wayville Stadium only seats a few hundred – all with a very close view of the action!
I was also very fortunate and overwhelmed with the effort some of my extended family went to, in showing their support for me and the rest of the Lightning team. Family from Pinnaroo drove a remarkable 2 and a half hours to most home games, arriving early and always staying around to say hello after the game before jumping back in the car and driving another 2 and a half hours home.
It was this same family that was tragically affected by an avoidable road incident that had life-changing ramifications. When approached by Motor Accident Commission of South Australia (MAC) to be an ambassador this season, it was an easy decision – my cousin and her fiancé’s story was on the front of my mind – and I felt a strong sense of responsibility to convey MAC’s message of road safety and educate the community in whatever way I could to stop such a tragedy from occurring again.
On the 19th of September 2013, my cousin Elise and her fiancé Luke were driving to their property on a reconnaissance trip to check on the canola crop. It was exactly a year and one day before they planned to get married - with the next season's crop a beautiful setting. Heartbreakingly, they never made it to the property, as Elise and Luke were victims of an inattentive driver who cut around a bend at 115km/h and crashed into their car, causing horrific injuries to both Elise and Luke.
Elise had her C6 and C7 vertebrae crushed resulting in her having no feeling from the chest down. She is confined to a wheelchair and has trouble performing the simplest of tasks that we often take for granted. Luke had most of the bones in his face broken as well as several broken bones in his hips, pelvis and ankles. His face alone required 18 metal plates and numerous screws to hold his skull and jaw together.
In an instant, one person’s careless actions have taken away the independence and privacy from both Elise and Luke. They require ongoing medical treatment, care and assistance from others, for the rest of their lives. It’s over three years since the crash and the rehabilitation is ongoing and painful.
I’ve been so inspired by Elise and Luke after this life-changing event. People see athletes as role models and heroes, but what athletes go through is nothing as physically or mentally challenging as what I have witnessed the two of them face and will continue to face. To see Elise smile when I walked into the intensive care unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital only a few weeks after the crash, showed more courage than I have ever witnessed in my life.
I encourage everyone to reflect on their choices when it comes to road safety. It is our responsibility as road uses to be vigilant on the road to keep ourselves and others safe. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you can get distracted, speed, or drive under the influence. Putting other lives at risk is selfish and dangerous. Don’t be scared to speak up and educate others if you witness others being an idiot on the road.
In an instant your world can be turned upside-down and impacted forever. If you think this can’t or won’t happen to you, or someone you care about, think again. There’s no better time of the year, with a lot of us using the roads to visit loved ones, to make smart decisions and practice safe behaviour on the road.
Australian professional basketball player, having played in Australia's Women's National Basketball League (WNBL), Europe, and the WNBA. MAC Brand Ambassador. Chocolate Lover.