January 23rd, 2021Beating the odds with incredible will power
Michael was recently named the winner of the Will Power category at the Macedon Ranges Youth Awards, something he is incredibly proud of but something he certainly wasn’t expecting.
“I had no idea the manager at my local gym had nominated me for the award. I was so proud given I have had to overcome so many obstacles and hardships since having an accident when I was seven,” he said.
Michael was just like every other seven-year-old boy – inquisitive, adventurous and loved being outdoors. So when Michael climbed a tree, it was something he had done many times before.
“I had always been outdoors and loved climbing trees. On that particular day, I can’t remember anything about the accident but can remember climbing the tree,” he said.
“I fell five metres and landed in the tree roots at the base of the tree. I was in a coma for three months. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember the accident at all and had to learn to do everything again – walk, talk, chew, swallow and eat,” he said.
“But now I look back and realise I had the determination to just push through. It’s the sink or swim attitude and I’ve always swum! And to win the award has just made everything worth it.”
Michael left hospital before his eighth birthday with an acquired brain injury and paralysed down his right side. He remembers a time when he had to restart school from prep and knew early on his life was going to be extremely different from his friends.
“I always struggled at school since the accident. Everything changed and while I had to learn everything all over again, I still had to have therapy before and after school which was so tiring.
“But as I got older, I realised more and more the importance of pushing through the pain and to never give up. I have endured 16 years of operations as well and my daily therapy and gym work continues. It will probably never end.”
Michael left school after completing Year 10. He said despite doing his best, he remembers a number of teachers who were supportive but some who failed to understand his learning hindrances.
“School was always a struggle for me and so tiring. I suffer from fatigue every day and I found school very hard at times. Unfortunately, I had a few teachers who just didn’t understand my situation and gave me a really hard time. I knew if I made it to Year 10, I could at least try to find a job in a supportive environment.”
And that he did. Michael worked for his local butcher before joining the crew at the Macedon Nursery and Gardens. A job he still loves going to each day.
“I have been given such amazing opportunities and I feel very lucky and fortunate. I think it always gets back to having that sink or swim mentality and I will always aim to swim no matter what.”
Above, Michael Smith receives his Will Power prize for the Macedon Shire Youth Awards, pictured in the Kyneton Botanical Gardens
Words & image: Narelle Groenhunt