Teenager determined to overcome skydiving injury

Elijah Arranz from Canberra, Australia, suffered a brain injury in a skydiving accident last November.   He was in hospital in Sydney for more than nine months. Now Elijah wants to run marathons. 
Elijah Arranz
Elijah Arranz with his mum

Elijah's accident

Nine months ago, a gust of wind collapsed Elijah and his instructor's parachute as they finished descending from a tandem skydive in Goulburn.

The impact fractured the base of Elijah's skull; He also broke his jaw, fractured the side of his face and his scapula, caused multiple breaks and fractures in his pelvis, broke nine ribs and lacerated his kidney and liver. The fractures have since healed. But the impact caused a severe traumatic brain injury. Before April, Elijah couldn't speak, or use his hands, or eat. Elijah survived because his instructor, Tony Rokov, 44, cushioned his fall. The Arranz family, who are in contact with Mr Rokov's family, continue to thank them for his sacrifice. The Arranz' feel no doubt it was the man's selfless actions that saved Elijah.

Recovery and huge support

Since April, chicken schnitzels and Big Macs are achievements he's happily unlocked. He can talk now about the marathons he wants to run. He's moving more with the help of his therapists but relies on a wheelchair to get around. In the weeks and months following his accident the Arranz' were overwhelmed with cash donations, items to be auctioned, work around the family home, meals, endless messages, calls and cards of support. "We have truly shed as many tears for people's generosity, thoughtfulness and support as we have over the accident itself," says Robin. "You never know what's around the corner," Robin says about the turn their life took, but she has found strength in family and community, "and Elijah. Just continuing to be amazing." They are grateful for Elijah's intensive care and rehabilitation teams, and staff on the hospital's neurology ward at the local hospital. For Elijah's paternal grandparents, who rented an apartment and moved to Sydney from Canberra shortly after the accident. For the local Ronald McDonald House, where Elijah and his mum now live. Since July, Elijah has been attending school at the hospital with 15 or so other students, which he loves. During the day he also does speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and hydrotherapy. His sister and dad visit from Canberra on the weekends and school holidays.

Big plans for the future

He misses school, and his friends but his ultimate goal is to run again. He wants his parents to push him in the 14-kilometre Canberra Times fun run.  They were having none of that last one, but agreed to the five-kilometre course - at a walk. He'll take it. The 15-year-old has his eyes on something bigger. "To run a marathon. The Boston Marathon," he says. "'cos it's the most famous one I know." This is the boy who once ran every day for more than a year, because he read about running streaks and liked the idea of a challenge. He made it to 426 days in a row, surpassing his goal, but saw no reason to stop. People told his parents if anyone could get through an accident like this, it would be this driven kid.  "And he is just proving everybody right, with everything," says Elijah's mother Robin. "He is very determined to run again. We don't know when it will happen, but he just keeps working really hard to get there." His work is not finished - there's that Boston Marathon. And new sneakers in his collection to wear out. But Elijah and Robin hope to soon return to live with his sister and father at their home in Flynn.
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