Ausnew Home Care | New car for paraplegic mum after community rallies with Hoodoo Gurus, pro-surfer Molly Picklum

New car for paraplegic mum after community rallies with Hoodoo Gurus, pro-surfer Molly Picklum

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A community on the New South Wales Central Coast has rallied to buy a new car for a single mum, who became a paraplegic after stopping to help at a road accident 30 years ago.

Joanne McSweeny cares for her daughter who has a disability.

But when her old vehicle broke down six months ago, they were stranded and could not get to their many weekly appointments and activities.

"I've been so fortunate with family and friends stepping in and helping out," Joanne said.

"It definitely makes a difference having your own transport, being able to maintain my independence."

Joanne's support network also managed to recruit high-profile Australians to help raise money to buy her new wheels.

Australian rock band the Hoodoo Gurus played at one fundraiser, while professional surfer Molly Picklum also jumped onboard.

A woman surfing
Professional surfer Molly Picklum has known Joanne and Mercy for several years.(Supplied: RedBull media)

"I've come to know Jo and Mercy quite well over the last few years as they've become extended family," Picklum said.

"They are the last people who would ask for help [and] Mercy is totally dependent on Jo."

'I hope I don't die'

Joanne's life changed forever 30 years ago when she stopped to help at a road accident in the Central Coast suburb of MacMasters Beach.

While she was out of her car assisting the driver, they were struck by another vehicle.

"I vaguely recall hearing some noise and looked up and a taxi was coming down the road and lost control and hit the back of that car and hit me," Joanne said.

"I have a recollection in my head, going, 'Oh, I think I just got run over. I hope I don't die'."

"It was very unemotional … but very vivid."

Her back was broken in two places, and she also suffered broken ribs and punctured lungs.

Six months in rehabilitation

Joanne's sister Christine McSweeny remembers turning up at the hospital after the accident and barely recognising her.

"And I'd given her an ankh which was the eternal [ancient Egyptian] symbol of life and she was clutching it in her hand," Christine said. 

"And then when we eventually went into the room she's gone, 'Lucky I had this on otherwise I would have died'."

An old photo of a mother with her four children
An old photograph of Joanne with her four children, including Mercy (bottom right).(Supplied: Joanne McSweeny)

Fearing she would not survive, the family also contacted the daughter Joanne had given up for adoption while in her teens, and they have remained in touch ever since.

Joanne spent six months recovering in a Sydney rehabilitation facility before returning home to the Central Coast.

She has since raised three children, the youngest with high needs who she cares for as a single mum.

Mercy, 21, has cerebral palsy, moderate intellectual disabilities and hemiplegia, a paralysis that affects one side of the body.

"[The] paediatrician always thought that she had some syndrome, but he just couldn't work it out," Joanne said.

"And probably eight years later … from a blood test, we found out she had another syndrome which is called Koolen-de Vries."

A group of women standing by a car.
Mercy and Joanne have just taken possession of their new $51,000 car.(ABC Central Coast: Caroline Perryman)

The recent fundraising efforts resulted in $50,000 for a brand-new modified vehicle, which has been presented to Joanne and Mercy.

"It's just such a beautiful car … a luxury," Joanne said.

"It's a Subaru, so still the same type of car [I had] but … so much more advanced."

Killarney-Bateau Lions Club also pitched in, raising nearly half the funds needed for the new vehicle.

"[It's] fantastic," said the club's Ronny Brennan.

"Just a warm feeling that you've done something for somebody."

It was an emotional day for the family, including for Joanne's mother, Carmel McSweeny.

"It relieves a lot of worry … with this car she's got her independence," she said.

"She can just go anywhere."


Source: ABC

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