From Wheelchair to Driver Seat with Instinctive Driving
Lena (May 2016)
Dire Concern for
Lena, was born in East Timor and is daughter to a military officer (Portugal) working for the United Nations Peace Force. Soon after completing her year 12, Lena was encouraged by her father to become a lawyer. This led to her moving away from her close-knit family to study law overseas, at a University in Indonesia. Little did she know at that time how dramatically her life was to unfold..
Originally colonised by Portugal in the 16th century, East Timor became a sovereign state on May 20, 2002 after its occupation by Indonesia in 1975. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, to the north-west of Australia.
During its occupation, East Timor was characterised by highly violent, decades-long conflict between separatist groups and the Indonesian military. In 1999, two years into her law degree, the conflict escalated causing Lena to leave her studies in Indonesia and return to East Timor to be with her family due to her dire concern for their wellbeing.
Determination and courage sees East Timorese ex-Police Officer shot in the line of duty go from a dependent, wheelchair-bound woman to an independent, confident Australian driver.
Escape Into the Jungle
Upon arrival home, at the tender age of 20, she soon found herself, along with her neighbours, in a life threatening situation brought on by separatist groups. Having no time to establish the whereabouts of her family, she and many other villagers fled deep into the nearby jungle.
Perhaps it was at this stage that she first found her inner strength and determination. Lena was in survival mode, being more fearful of what waited for her on the outside than the inherent dangers and discomfort of the jungle itself.
After three months, under the protection of Australian led, international peace keeping forces it was safe to leave the jungle. Upon doing so, she soon discovered that her village was decimated; livestock killed and dwellings destroyed.
Fortunately, she was soon reunited with her family who had survived the ordeal; at least physically unscathed.
Near Death and Crippled
In 2000 Lena had joined the East Timor Police, she found herself travelling the world attending international conferences including Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and Fiji representing the East Timorese Police.
In May, 2006 world headlines reported an incident where eight East Timorese police officers were killed and dozens wounded when East Timorese soldiers opened fire on them. Sadly, Lena was one of these victims and found herself with a bullet lodged in her spine.
Airlifted to a hospital in Darwin, Australia, she underwent emergency surgery. Barely escaping death she was left however, paralysed from the waist down.
Two weeks later she was moved to the Royal Adelaide Hospital in South Australia, where she underwent a further three-months of treatment. This was followed by another three-months of intensive rehabilitation at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre, with a further 12 months as an outpatient in community housing.
Fierce Resolve Helps
Regain Her Life
Fortunately, Lena with fierce resolve, learnt to walk again.
Of stern character and whilst clearly appreciative of all the assistance she had received, her resolve now extended to not being treated as disabled and regaining her independence, part of which included the ability to drive again. At the end of 2015, after many years of effort and eventual clearance by her GP, Lena became determined to get her driving license.
Now she faced another dilemma namely, social ignorance. She had driving lessons with a number of instructors that for reasons that can only be guessed at, did not challenge her, disregarded her driving history and clearly did not recognise her ability to learn very quickly and overcome any obstacle.
Fortunately for Lena, MatchWorks which delivers jobactive Employment Services and Disability Employment Services became aware of Lena’s predicament and placed her in contact with Tony Loughhead of Instinctive Driving. In her own words, Lena found Tony to be prompt in recognising her driving skills, kept things simple, was very encouraging and challenging at the same time. Not long after taking driving lessons with Tony, Lena took and passed her test, and secured her driving license.
Instinctive Driving has played a very small role in Lena’s extraordinary life. Meeting her and many like her is a benefit Tony is often rewarded with in his profession. She is truly a remarkable woman who has literally gone from wheelchair to driver seat.
Lena and Tony Loughhead (May 2016)