Nine years ago Greek Australian businessman Terry Mitropoulos was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and was given a five per cent chance of survival.
The father of two, aged 36 at the time, underwent 13 brain operations. The compounding effects of the surgeries, 72 different types of medication pumping through his system, a superbug contracted while in hospital that caused a blockage to his spinal cord and began to destroy his nervous system, a mechanical valve in his brain and two shunts to drain fluid, caused his body to suffer a stroke.
He lost his speech, sight and hearing. The doctors advised him that he would never walk again.
Despite the devastating diagnosis, following a four-year long monumental battle both in hospital and in rehabilitation the 46-year-old ‘miracle man’ is finally able to walk again. Not only has he succeeded in surviving against all odds, but he says he is now ready to take on a new challenge – an awareness-building walk, that is a mere hurdle compared to what he has overcome so far.
The father of two young boys, who was also awarded Father of The Year (2016) by the Eltham Leisure Centre Community, is preparing to walk from Adelaide to Melbourne in over 43 days, starting on 17 August, in an effort to raise awareness of the mental strain of illness not just on the sufferers themselves, but also on those who support them.
He plans to walk about 20km a day and raise enough funds for the Black Dog Institute, an organisation dedicated to understanding, preventing and treating mental illness in Australia.
“My aim is to get the community together and to highlight the importance of mental resilience that enables us to endure the fight. I want to raise awareness of the importance of how working together anything can be achieved,” Mr Mitropoulos told Neos Kosmos.
On his route, he will be closely monitored by a doctor and supported by former AFL players as well as schoolchildren.
Ex-Carlton player Ang Christou is among the former AFL players who have already offered him their support.
“The mental capacity of this man is astounding and I’m keen to help him raise as much money as he can,” Christou said.
Mr Mitropoulos credits his faith to God as well as his family for helping him pull through.
“Words cannot describe how important this all is to me, but I am hoping my charity walk will do more than just highlight my own capacity to overcome the medical odds. I am alive and I want this to be an inspiring story for everyone out there that might be fighting their own battle. I want you all to know that miracles do happen,” says Mr Mitropoulos admitting that after confronting his own mortality, he has a much deeper understanding of the importance of family connections and support.
Terry’s wife Belinda and his two young children, Jonah, 15, and Christos, 12, have not left his side and will be cheering him on – with admiration – from the sidelines.
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“We all have angels in our lives, and my family have certainly been mine. Without their constant support I don’t think I would have made it. Belinda is just amazing and a great support to me and our boys. I promised that I would get back on my feet and I did it for them,” Mr Mitropoulos said, adding on reflection that he believes that the crisis to his health may have happened for a reason.
“When we are healthy, we take life for granted and it’s not until you lose your independence that you realise what really matters and who is going to be there for you. Having lived through that experience I have now learnt that regardless of what you believe in or what anyone else might say, if you put your mind, spirit and soul into that belief, you will achieve it.
“I feel privileged to have my family support me and my two boys, and I feel blessed to have another opportunity to be their father again but in the same breath, I would love nothing more than to have our Greek Australian community support me through this challenge,” he concludes.
Mr Mitropoulos hopes to arrive in Melbourne on Grand Final Day, September 28.
TO DONATE: gofundme.com/walkandshine/donate