Lucky escape as Sean steps into his new life

ON September 30 last year Sean Crone spent the day with three mates riding motorbikes in the bush, just ''normal boy stuff''. They weren't far into the 90-minute drive home to Melbourne when the driver fell asleep at the wheel, ploughing their VZ Commodore into a tree.

Sean, 22, doesn't remember much about the accident, even though the paramedics who spent two hours extracting him from the car say he was conscious and calm. ''My legs were on the dashboard so the impact has set the airbag off, thrown my legs to the side and snapped my seatbelt, which has ruptured all my insides and thrown me into the middle of the car.''

Sean's bowels, bladder and stomach were ruptured, his left leg was mangled, and his pelvis broken in three places. He remembers being trapped and the flashing lights, and telling his best mate Jarrod - who was pinned to the driver's seat by Sean's legs - to look after his 22-month-old daughter Ella-Rose.

''I remember holding my best mate's hand and telling him to look after her for me 'cause I just thought that was it. I was trapped that bad. My leg was pretty much amputated in the car.''

After being freed from the wreckage Sean was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital and rushed into theatre for extensive surgery. In the following weeks, having overcome the immediate threat to his life, there were many more operations to try to save Sean's leg.

''After six or seven weeks they decided there was nothing more they could do for the leg, the leg was dead. I knew what was coming. I'm glad I had the opportunity to know before … as opposed to just waking up with no leg.''

Before he had his leg amputated Sean received a visit from Paralympian Jack Swift, a sprinter who represented Australia last year in London. Jack lost his leg in a workplace accident in 2006, aged 21. He showed Sean his stump and his prosthetic leg and told him about his life now. Sean found it pretty inspiring.

''You see what can come out of it. Just because you lose your leg doesn't mean your life's over.''

Sean was transferred to the hospital's rehabilitation unit at Royal Park on December 7. Since then he's pushed himself hard to build up strength in his upper body and right leg. He's also been stretching his pelvis and stump ready for the day last Thursday when he received his prosthetic leg.

After a tentative start Sean ''took the leg out'' last weekend for a stay in the city with family. He wasn't supposed to walk on it for much more than half an hour at a time, but walked the whole of Melbourne from one side to the other. ''I knew when to stop and have a break and check it for wounds to make sure nothing went wrong. I had the opportunity and I just had to do it.''

A big motivation to walk again has been Ella-Rose, ''to be able to run and play with her and not be stuck in a wheelchair''.

Discharged from hospital this week, Sean's considering studying to become a physiotherapy assistant and ''maybe I'll even go to the Olympics one day''.

He's also thinking about all the fun he can have with his new leg. ''I've thought about taking it down to St Kilda beach with a bottle of tomato sauce and yelling, 'Shark!' But I've been told I might get arrested for that.''

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