"You're just saying in your head, don't be dead"

Mudgee teenager Jarrod Emeny shares his inspirational tale on Hear Them Raw


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A bizarre series of coincidences changed Jarrod Emeny's life forever.

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At just 17 years of age, Jarrod Emeny was left paraplegic when the vehicle he was driving rolled into a tree. He shared his story through The Land's first podcast series, Hear Them Raw. Pictures: Supplied

At just 17 years of age, Jarrod Emeny was left paraplegic when the vehicle he was driving rolled into a tree. He shared his story through The Land's first podcast series, Hear Them Raw. Pictures: Supplied

Mudgee teenager Jarrod Emeny has just hit the stage during the Newbies Comedy Night at a local wine bar.

A single spotlight is aimed at him. A bar table towers above Jarrod, where a glass of beer sits alongside his sheet of notes.

"I'm your sit-down comedian for the night. I would do stand up but I can't really do that," the 18-year-old chuckles to the crowd.

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It's been more than a year since Jarrod was left a paraplegic after rolling his vehicle into a tree.

But his comedy skit is far from an act. Humour and maturity helped this young man overcome a bizarre series of coincidences that would ultimately change his life forever.

The three strikes of rugby

Jarrod's first love is sport and he committed himself to every form of exercise.

Mixed netball, touch football, rugby union and soccer. You name it, he did it whenever he could. Initially it was all about soccer, following in the footsteps of his coaching father, Michael.

But before long, Jarrod found his build suited the game of rugby union and from about six years of age he lined up as a prop and more recently a hooker.

Rugby also became his downfall. It sparked a series of injuries beginning with a spinal cord scare during a match some years ago.

"I had an accident on the rugby field where I got crumpled by a big prop and I was in a spinal board neck brace for a couple of hours," he says.

Jarrod spent nine days in ICU, six weeks in the spinal ward at Royal North Shore Hospital and two months at Royal Rehab.

Jarrod spent nine days in ICU, six weeks in the spinal ward at Royal North Shore Hospital and two months at Royal Rehab.

Years later, the night before a 10-day rugby tour to New Zealand, Jarrod was involved in a firearms accident, a .22 magnum point blank shot to the leg.

"I was out hunting and I was with a mate who hadn't really grown up with us, I mean I still trust him with my life," Jarrod says.

"He thought he had the safety on his rifle and he slipped and accidentally pulled the trigger as it was pointed at my leg inside the car."

So the third serious injury? You guessed it, it was rugby related, but this time it left a lasting scar.

"My most recent accident in July (last year), I was on my way to a rugby game in the morning and I just crashed," he says.

The car crash

On July 6, 2018, Jarrod finished a shift at McDonalds around nine o'clock and drove himself home to his family's sheep property outside of town.

With his parents away delivering their meat orders, he had the place to himself.

He woke up the next morning in a rush, his organisation skills weren't strong, and he needed to get himself to a rugby match in Orange.

The Emeny family.

The Emeny family.

It wasn't long before he was behind the wheel of a Hilux utility and driving down their side road. The last thing he remembers is a wiggle of the tailgate.

"Then all the rest of it is like a black mess," he says.

"Mum reckons it was a wombat because she hit one a year before in the exact same spot. I think it was just a bit of slippery road, took the corner too fast."

Luckily for Jarrod his vehicle had rolled into a tree adjacent to one of the scattered houses along the road that was just a few kilometres from where he had departed.

Jarrod had three broken ribs, three broken vertebrae and his T9 vertebrae had dislocated and was sitting above T8, his spinal cord was cut instantly.

But the injuries weren't his biggest concern.

"It was of course hard to take at first but to be honest I wasn't really worried about how broken I was, I was more worried about the people I was affecting," he says.

Jarrod (far right) on the basketball court.

Jarrod (far right) on the basketball court.

"I remember telling our neighbour over the road, saying I think I was going to be a disappointment to everyone. Your first reaction to it is really really bad, it's really really negative. You don't see any positives in it.

"Once I was over in hospital I sort of realised, it's going to be my life now, there is no point dwelling on it.

"It's funny to say because with my accident with my leg I was in a chair for about six weeks and throughout that whole time I thought I could do it and I sort of knew, if it came to it, I could be in a wheelchair."

Jarrod's parents, Michael and Carolyn, were busy delivering orders for their paddock to plate lamb business when they learned of the news on social media.

"We heard on Facebook on our local page that the road had been closed and I messaged my cousin's wife, they are across the road there, and he is in the fire brigade so I knew he would be in rescue," Carolyn says.

"I messaged her and said, 'Jarrod would have been on his way to rugby, have you heard?' and it was actually that moment where it's the worst that you always think of and then all of a sudden it happened."

They called their client, told them they wouldn't be making deliveries and headed back to their home. On the way, they came across the crash scene.

"You're just saying in your head, don't be dead," Michael says.

"The car is a Hilux and it was bent so much that when you put it back on its wheels it wasn't on its wheels, the centre of a chassis was on the ground."

Enduring rehab

Jarrod spent nine days in ICU, six weeks in the spinal ward at Royal North Shore Hospital and two months at Royal Rehab.

He credits his recovery to the Spinal Cord Injuries Australia Peer Support team but much should be attributed to his own attitude.

From the moment he saw his parents Jarrod was planning what new job opportunities he could strive for in school and how he could continue to help on his family's property.

Wheelchairs weren't an unknown prospect to Jarrod. A family friend lived a life no different to theirs from a wheelchair and throughout Jarrod's schooling he had classes with a girl in a chair.

"Luckily enough I was able to get over the 'I'm not going to walk again' sort of thing straight away," he says.

While rugby was a huge part of Jarrod's life before the accident, he found a love for basketball during his recovery. Jarrod and his parents Carolyn and Michael are pictured celebrating his bronze medal at the Kevin Coombs state final.

While rugby was a huge part of Jarrod's life before the accident, he found a love for basketball during his recovery. Jarrod and his parents Carolyn and Michael are pictured celebrating his bronze medal at the Kevin Coombs state final.

"I think it was more that I just knew people in chairs, that I knew life can be really good in a chair, it can be even better than your normal life."

Jarrod's mother Carolyn didn't leave his side during his recovery. She still questions why it was her son, but she found the answer watching from the sideline.

"I spent every minute of every day with him that they would allow me and more and that kid is my inspiration because at 17 years of age his outlook of what has happened to him is funny, it's positive," she says.

"From the minute we saw him until this moment today he has this attitude of can. It's not that I can't do anything, I have to do it differently."

Developments in technology has given new hope to paraplegics.

With the help of a chip mounted into their spine, a handful of people have walked again in America. But, Jarrod won't take it.

"I just crashed a car, I'm not an inspiration to anyone," he says.

"There are real people that have freak accidents, like falling over in the sand, that should really get it before I do."

It's this sense of humour that's contagious.

Back at the Mudgee wine bar, the time warning has sounded and Jarrod's performance is wrapping up.

In between the laughter he delivers his final line.

"If Led Zeppelin was right and there was a stairway to heaven, I'm stuffed anyway," he says, sculling his beer and rolling off the stage.

Listen to the full podcast episode by searching for Hear Them Raw in any podcast app.

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