Australia

Pain v passion: The nine-year journey that cost Paralympian more than her leg


The scars on Monique Murphy’s physique are virtually unrecognisable as she sits in a restaurant in Brisbane’s south on an overcast morning.

Her bubbly nature and massive smile are arduous to overlook.

One may look first on the rainbow-dyed strands below her blonde hair, or her brightly colored prosthetic leg, earlier than she lifts her chin to indicate the traces of a life-changing accident.

She’s what she calls a “frequent flyer” in hospital, this week present process her twenty fifth surgical procedure.

It’s one other quantity added to a string of figures the Paralympian pins to her identify.

Silver medallist within the 400 metres S10 freestyle on the Paralympics in Rio, Brazil, in 2016.

A member of 5 Australian swim groups.

Three makes an attempt at completely different levels. Two universities.

And 9 years to graduate from her bachelor diploma.

Monique Murphy wins silver within the ladies’s 400m Freestyle Gold Medalist – S10 in 2016.Credit:Paralympics Australia

But Murphy says the fun of listening to her identify referred to as final month at her commencement ceremony was virtually the identical as greedy her silver medal in Brazil.

Those remaining steps – taken with an costly prosthetic leg Murphy fights arduous for – onto the commencement stage had been valuable. They represented the top of a years-long journey the 28-year-old by no means anticipated.

“It’s quite funny. Everything in sport is about doing everything as fast as you can, until it comes to your degree, there’s a competition for who takes the longest,” Murphy jokes.

Higher training is one factor athletes are joyful to take their time on, she says.

Murphy graduates at Griffith University.

Murphy graduates at Griffith University. Credit:Natasha Lazaro

She now holds a bachelor of enterprise, majoring in advertising and marketing – a level that value greater than her prosthetic leg.

Murphy has no recollection of the incident that led to the amputation of her proper leg.

In 2014, she woke from a coma, per week after being at a college get together.

Always a aggressive swimmer, the younger social-work scholar was informed she had fallen from a fifth-floor balcony and landed on a glass roof. Her mother and father had been informed she had tried to kill herself.

Murphy after the accident.

Murphy after the accident.

But the accident was the results of a spiked drink.

Her accidents had been in depth – her leg truly one of many lesser, Murphy says.

“I cut my neck open, I missed the windpipe,” she says, including medical doctors had been fearful about eradicating the numerous quantity of glass from her neck.

Her jaw was damaged, her left shoulder wrecked. Bones had been fractured and the injury to her proper foot required amputation.

“I’ve got a load [of scars]. I’ve got scars all over my chest from all the glass. There’s quite a lot there,” she says, pulling at her high.

“I woke up, they didn’t do stitches, they did staples. I had staples everywhere. I felt like Frankenstein.

“Everyone was saying to me, ‘you’re going to be a Paralympian!’ and I’m in a hospital bed going, ‘it’s going to be 10 times harder’.

“I had jaw surgery, so my face was so big. The scars got quite bubbly, they had to do injections, they weren’t very fun…[the doctors were saying] ‘we’ll make you look pretty’ and I was just thinking, I don’t actually care, I’m alive, that’s good enough.”

Murphy tells of how she failed a college course as a result of her means to recall new info isn’t what it was earlier than the autumn.

On her good days, Murphy can be within the water at 5.30am, adopted by class, a fitness center session, relaxation and coaching once more within the afternoon.

Some days, when she was recovering from surgical procedure and in a wheelchair, she wouldn’t even attend the campus as a result of it wasn’t accessible sufficient.

Then, at age 26, an endometriosis analysis.

“With my accident I learnt to be very flexible with my goals,” she says.

“One month I’m aiming for a Paralympic medal, the next month I’m recovering, trying to get to the toilet.

“If the goals changed, it’s not a reflection on me. Finishing uni, you know, in my family it’s the longest anyone has taken to finish a degree. It was really important for my parents.

Monique Murphy with partner Andrew.

Monique Murphy with partner Andrew.

“It took a bit longer … I’m 28, looking for my first full-time job, but at the same time I’ve got a lot of life experience when it comes to people with a disability, advocating for minorities.”

She says an enormous problem for her and others with disabilities is discovering full-time work, particularly when employers are sometimes hesitant to rent individuals who may want extra necessities, similar to appropriate parking areas.

And the fee has been appreciable. Murphy, who has paid for greater than half her surgical procedures, says extra assist is required by means of employers and the NDIS.

“When I had my accident, everything was covered. But as soon as I left, everything … is considered elective.

“Endometriosis is considered elective. That’s the most expensive surgery I’ve had. It’s frustrating.

“Twenty per cent of people in Australia have a disability and only 1 per cent are employed [full time]. I can’t find someone who will employ [full time] … at the moment, I can’t have a full-time job just because of my health.”

Murphy is balancing work at Minerva Network, Paralympics Australia and Sporting Wheelies and talks commonly at colleges to boost consciousness and educate youngsters about residing with disabilities.

Murphy regularly swims with her “mermaid fin”.

Murphy commonly swims along with her “mermaid fin”.

She says educating kids at an early stage, earlier than stigma has set in, will change how folks with disabilities are considered.

Murphy is not any stranger to disdainful therapy: folks swore at her when she requested for a seat on public transport, folks stared when she parked in a disabilities spot as a result of “she’s young”.

She says Brisbane is the least accessible metropolis she has lived in, in contrast along with her former dwelling in Melbourne, and hopes issues will change earlier than the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics.

“God, I hope I’m not competing by then,” she laughs. “But having a hand in shaping that would be amazing. It’s got to be accessible.”

Disparity nonetheless exists within the skilled swimming sphere, Murphy says, with appreciable pay variations in Olympian and Paralympic medals, to not point out the shortage of broadcast precedence for athletes with disabilities.

But Murphy says whereas her Paralympic colleagues inform her equality between Paralympians and Olympians has come a good distance, there’s extra to do.

There are hardly any feminine coaches additionally, Murphy says.

“Growing up watching the Olympics, it’s not about the attention or the media, you see the impact swimming has on people,” she says, recalling how Paralympians will usually not be interviewed after their races, competing earlier than smaller crowds.

“Why is what I do less? I lost my leg, why do I get punished?

“That’s why the Paralympics are really special because that’s the first time I’ve raced in front of a full crowd.

“When I made my first team, and we got our medals, everyone had left because the able-bods were [finished racing] … my family were still there and in tears.

“No para swimmer is sponsored by Speedo.”

Murphy in the womens 50m freestyle S10 on day two at Olympic Aquatic Stadium, Rio, 2016.

Murphy within the womens 50m freestyle S10 on day two at Olympic Aquatic Stadium, Rio, 2016. Credit:Paralympics Australia

It nonetheless baffles Murphy why athletes with disabilities have such under-representation within the media, and after they do, it’s “all about a pity story”.

“We’re athletes first and foremost, people with a disability second,” she says.

She hopes after her second knee reconstruction this week to make a full restoration and goal for the Paris Paralympics in 2024.

“If I’m in any pain or training gets too much, I’m very grateful for what my body has gone through,” she says.

“I’ve been on the team for six years. I’ve held world records. I’ve won a Paralympian medal. If that’s it, I’m very grateful. I can’t keep pushing me through more surgeries.

“I’ll always be in the water. But I want to continue to be an advocate, and being an able-bod then a para, you see both sides.

“The disparity is really obvious for me … it’s good because you need to be grateful but continually pushing for change. I’d really love to be able to get on any kind of development team for 2032.

“As long as I’m somewhere helping people, I’ll be happy.”



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