Julie Metaxotos was severely injured in a road crash on Christmas Eve 2013. She cannot remember what happened on the day, but it was a day that changed her life forever. Julie, who lives in Australia, has released a book, A Fractured Life, detailing her long road to recovery. Here, Julie tells Three60 about the challenges she has endured and how she hopes sharing her story will help to inspire others.
Can you tell us what happened on Christmas Eve 2013?
On the morning of Christmas Eve 2013 I was heading over to a nearby town, Kilmore, 10 kms from home. I had scribbled a small grocery shopping list to pick up some things for baking in preparation for Christmas Eve dinner that was being held at our friend’s home and lunch with the family on Christmas Day. My first on the ‘to do’ list was to take our cat Roly to the cattery as we were planning our annual Christmas holiday break at the family beach house in St Leonards.
I know I decided not to pick up the groceries, the car park looked so busy. So I headed back home. I don’t know what happened after that but I was told that on my way home – on that 100km Northern Hwy – I came head to head with another car and we crashed. It took the rescue team 50 minutes to cut me out of the wreckage. I was trapped and bleeding. Once I was freed the helicopter flew me to the Alfred Hospital Emergency Unit where they put me into an induced coma and started to operate on me.
What was the extent of your injuries?
I suffered a break to the right elbow, punctured lungs, a broken sternum, ribs broken on my left side, a broken and dislocated left wrist, both legs broken above and below the knee, open wounds on the lower left leg and right arm and there was no blood flow to the left leg as the main artery in my leg was damaged.
How long did you have to stay in hospital?
I spent nine months in hospital.
What was the impact on your family?
My family suffered with me; it was a very difficult time for all of us. My son was about to go into his crucial VCE years at school (Victorian Certificate of Education); the next two years were trying and he worked hard to stay focused. At 16 years of age this was very traumatic for him. Thankfully, he did work hard and my husband Zach supported him well and after two difficult years he made it into the course and university of his choice. Thankfully.
But, that time I was in hospital was not easy for anyone. Family visited daily. They spent Christmas in the Alfred Hospital’s ICU waiting room, about 30 of them gathered around. My husband wore the brunt of it, taking care of things at home and keeping family informed of my condition daily. It was a terrible time.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
Being away from family. Losing my independence. Not being able to walk, or feed myself or bathe alone. Being hoisted to the bathroom. Using pans bed pans. Wearing a halo for 11 weeks. Total dependence on others.
Would you consider yourself fully recovered?
Not quite. I have come a long way but I am still going to rehab twice weekly and will be having more surgery early next year. I have permanent damage to my left leg. No knee cap and some of the muscles are disconnected which effects the natural movement. I have titanium in both legs and wires in my right elbow. On top of that lots of scars, skin grafts and memories to last a lifetime. But I am so much better!
How has the collision changed your life on a long-term basis?
I am limited with movement, I use a walking stick to get around, I can’t run yet (I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that but I will keep working with that in time. I really enjoyed doing 4K fun runs previously but now can’t). I have just started driving again but I’ll be sure only to travel to places I am familiar with and necessary, such as work, local shops/ train station, and rehab to begin with. I am not able to return to my previous role as Team Leader yet as I cannot do a full week’s work. I suffer from fatigue and am physically still building my strength.
When were you able to return to work?
I returned in May of 2016. I work eight hours on a Monday and five hours on a Wednesday, with a view to increase gradually. I’m now in a PA role as I transition back.
You are now involved in public speaking. What made you get involved in this?
It all started when I was asked to speak at rehab to share my experiences with physios / staff and patients. It was interesting to see how well received I was and the staff told me that I inspired them to do better and with the patients they saw hope in their own recovery.
Then the bank – Westpac – who I work for asked me to do the same and speak to staff at a conference. Following that I was invited back to do more talks with financial planners and managers etc. The BT Financial Group, who are also part of Westpac, approached me to film a couple of videos and interviews. I feel I am turning a negative into a positive by reaching out to others. I have so much information to share.
Tell us about your new book, A Fractured Life.
It’s a story about how even when you are broken and things seem to be going wrong that deep within us there is a pool of strength that we can draw on, we can overcome adversity. It takes you through my setbacks and triumphs, it’s real: the highs and lows.
If the book could achieve just one thing, what would it be?
My wish is to give people hope and inspiration. To never give up. To have a voice and be part of their own healing process. Find life after trauma. That they too can live again and be happy, it might not be exactly what it was like before but it’s possible to live a full life and not let this tragedy take over their lives. I want them to fight back and get on with life and live it to the fullest.
View a short video about Julie’s journey below, produced to coincide with the release of A Fractured Life.