Mitropou­los’ mir­a­cle marathon

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY COLIN MACGILLIVR­AY

Wim­mera res­i­dents with a close eye on the Western High­way dur­ing the past week might have seen some­thing unique – a walk­ing mir­a­cle.

By all rights Terry Mitropou­los should be dead, or at the very least in a wheel­chair.

In­stead, the Mel­bourne man is in the midst of a mam­moth 768-kilometre walk from Ade­laide to Mel­bourne to raise money for men­tal health char­i­ties.

While the prospect of walk­ing an av­er­age of about 20 kilo­me­tres a day for 42 days might seem daunt­ing to most, Mr Mitropou­los is no stranger to ad­ver­sity.

Nine years ago, the fa­ther of two was di­ag­nosed with a brain tumour and un­der­went 13 brain surgeries, even­tu­ally re­quir­ing a me­chan­i­cal valve and two shunts to reg­u­late his brain fluid.

While in hospi­tal he con­tracted an an­tibi­otic-re­sis­tant ‘su­per­bug’ and was on 72 dif­fer­ent med­i­ca­tions to help fight the in­fec­tion.

Given a five per­cent chance of liv­ing, Mr Mitropou­los turned to an ex­per­i­men­tal drug from over­seas.

It halted the in­fec­tion but dam­aged his cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem; he suf­fered a stroke, was ren­dered para­plegic and could not see or hear.

Mr Mitropou­los said he emerged from the ex­pe­ri­ence phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally shat­tered. “I had very lit­tle life left,” he said. “I was in hospi­tal for four years, I was wheel­chair-bound, I was a vegetable in bed, and I was told I would never walk again.

“It’s re­ally hard to in­ter­pret what I ex­pe­ri­enced, but I knew there was more in me.”

Mr Mitropou­los was de­ter­mined to re­gain some sem­blance of his old life.

He as­sem­bled a team of physio, re­me­dial and oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pists, a per­sonal trainer and even an acupunc­tur­ist to help him do what doc­tors said was im­pos­si­ble – walk again.

“The team I put to­gether were peo­ple who knew what they were do­ing and, more im­por­tantly, be­lieved in me,” he said.

“They said, ‘this guy re­ally wants to bet­ter him­self, let’s help him’.

“They helped me over­come the im­pos­si­ble and make it pos­si­ble.

“When you’re work­ing to­gether, any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

The idea of work­ing to­gether to over­come all odds res­onates strongly with Mr Mitropou­los.

Af­ter strug­gling with his men­tal health dur­ing his or­deal in hospi­tal, he was in­spired to help oth­ers with their own men­tal health bat­tles.

This year he de­cided to un­der­take his huge walk in sup­port of the Black Dog In­sti­tute and the YMCA Open Doors pro­gram, with a tar­get of rais­ing $200,000.

“I know the men­tal health prob­lems are grow­ing. Hav­ing lived with it my­self, I’m an ex­am­ple of that,” he said.

“It’s not about how you over­come it; it’s about how you live with it.

“I thought, ‘let’s walk from Ade­laide to Mel­bourne and re­ally show ev­ery­one that when we are work­ing to­gether, look what we can achieve’.

Mr Mitropou­los’ jour­ney, known as ‘Walk and Shine’ started in Ade­laide on Au­gust 17.

He crossed the bor­der into Victoria on Tues­day last week and has stopped in Kaniva, Nhill, Gerang, Wail, Hor­sham and Dadswells Bridge so far on his way through the Wim­mera.

In the next four days he will con­tinue on to Deep Lead, Stawell and Ararat.

Mr Mitropou­los said the en­cour­age­ment and sup­port he had re­ceived from peo­ple along the way was stag­ger­ing.

“It’s re­mark­able the sup­port that I’ve had,” he said.

“I am find­ing it a lit­tle whelm­ing, in a good way.

“Peo­ple who are driv­ing by have stopped and pulled over and in­tro­duced them­selves.”

Mr Mitropou­los said he had never done a walk of this mag­ni­tude be­fore but was feel­ing good and thor­oughly en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“The rea­son I’m hav­ing fun is be­cause bit overof the sup­port crew he said.

“We sing and we lis­ten to mu­sic down the high­way and share our jokes and sto­ries with each other.

“Hav­ing that, it al­lows you to re­move your thoughts from only walk­ing.

“You re­ally haven’t got time to think about what you’re do­ing other than en­ter­tain­ing your­self and oth­ers.

“This lit­er­ally would not have been pos­si­ble with­out them.”

Mr Mitropou­los ad­mit­ted he was un­sure how he would feel when he reached Mel­bourne, which he plans to do on Sep­tem­ber 27.

But re­gard­less of what hap­pens, he said he would con­tinue to en­joy life and try to help oth­ers do the same by sup­port­ing men­tal health char­i­ties.

“This for me is the be­gin­ning of some­thing new that I’m go­ing to ful­fil year in and year out – mak­ing sure that sup­port is out there for peo­ple with men­tal health is­sues.

“There are peo­ple out there who we can pro­vide some sort of ser­vice for that they re­quire.

“It’s ab­so­lutely ex­tra­or­di­nary know­ing that we as a whole are able to have an im­pact in some­one’s life.

“I don’t think there’s any­thing much more re­ward­ing than know­ing we have had that im­pact on oth­ers.”

To sup­port Mr Mitropou­los’ Walk and Shine cam­paign, peo­ple can donate via web­site www.gofundme. com/f/walka­nd­shine.

Peo­ple can also find more in­for­ma­tion on the walk by vis­it­ing www. walka­nd­ I have,”

THUMBS UP: Terry Mitropou­los is over­whelmed by the en­cour­age­ment he has re­ceived dur­ing his 768-kilometre jour­ney from Ade­laide to Mel­bourne, sup­port­ing Black Dog In­stitue and YMCA Open Doors.

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