Elijah Arranz was told he might never walk again after suffering multiple injuries in a tandem skydiving accident near Goulburn in November 2015.
Elijah, a keen basketballer, runner and a student at St Francis Xavier College at the time, was just 14 years of age.
His skydiving instructor Tony Rokov bravely turned his body around to protect Elijah from the main impact after a freak gust of wind collapsed his parachute.
Forty-four-year-old Tony was killed in the accident. In 2018, he was posthumously awarded the Star of Courage Bravery Medal.
Elijah suffered multiple injuries in the accident, including a traumatic brain injury, fractures to the base of his skull and shoulder blade, as well as internal injury to his organs, nine broken ribs, and multiple breaks to his pelvis and jaw.
He spent seven weeks in intensive care at Sydney’s Westmead Children’s Hospital, followed by 10 months of rehabilitation.
Confined to a wheelchair for much of the past seven years, Elijah’s incredible determination has resulted in him being able to walk again with the aid of a walker.
“My rehab is going really well at the moment; I have started walking small distances independently,” says Elijah.
The community support from across Canberra following the accident has been nothing short of phenomenal and it continues to this current day.
Sport continues to play a central role in Elijah’s life through rehabilitation.
“My rowing is just something I like to do every day. It’s not vital to my rehab,” says Elijah. “It just kinda gives me a purpose every time I’m on it— to remind me to never give up when times get hard.”
While Elijah still has some way to go before he is running and playing basketball again, his positive mindset has lifted others to heights they didn’t believe possible.
Inspired by Elijah’s determination, Ainslie footballers Harry Muir and Jakob Wiley ran their first marathon earlier this month to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House.
“We decided to give back to an organisation that had done so much for our friend,” said Harry.
That friendship goes back years before Elijah’s accident.
“It all started when Elijah was playing basketball with my brother [Tommy] and we became friends. Then after his accident, he started coaching the Ginninderra under-19 boys team with me,” said Harry.
Jakob met Elijah through Harry and Tommy Muir.
The fundraising marathon took Harry and Jakob across Canberra.
“We started at Lake Ginninderra, ran to Lake Burley Griffin, and did a lap of the lake before a lap of the Bridge to Bridge,” said Jakob.
During the marathon, both Harry and Jakob drew inspiration from Elijah during the tough kilometres.
“When we were training for the marathon, we struggled at times but we thought it was nothing compared to what Elijah has been through and it kept us going,” said Harry.
The marathon raised nearly $12,000.
“That’s 100 nights for families staying at Ronald McDonald House,” Harry explained.
Jakob, a 24-year-old carpenter, said he had been energised by the experience and would now like to make it an annual event.
Watching his mates run a marathon for Ronald McDonald House has been uplifting for Elijah.
“My reaction to them running was that I was amazed that they would do all that to help an organisation that has meant so much to my family and me.”
Elijah said the past seven years had brought home to him the importance of having a supportive team around.
He sees the importance of this to success in life, so much so that the lives of these young people and those they have come into contact have been changed forever.
It’s not too late to help Jakob and Harry raise money for Ronald McDonald House. Show your support here.