You all know the unimaginable circumstances that surrounded the death of my only child ‘Sarah Louise Cafferkey’.
But what you may not know is Sarah the person who would capture your heart with her joy and humour. Her athletic ability and her creative musical and theatrical performances. Sarah's artwork, inspirational writing and poems were always a delight and still amazes me today.
Even in sickness, these attributes were what formed Sarah’s Journey of Life.
At a very young age Sarah’s talent, skill and determination amazed us all.
In prep her drawings were beyond her years with three dimentional chairs and animal characters brought to life in colour.
Academically she cruised through her primary years. Sarah auditioned for the Australian Youth Choir and sang on stage at the Melbourne Concert Hall with the Vienna Boys Choir when they toured Melbourne in 1999. She learnt to play the piano and many tunes were created and played along with our voices, which created a stir, or should I say noisy disturbance amongst our neighbours.
Sarah had an abundance of energy so we joined the Dolfins at BM Littles Athletics Club. Every Saturday morning for 10 years we dragged ourselves out of bed and always arrived just in time for the first event. Her passion was running and high jump. She had a wonderful quirky style when it came to high jump – a little footwork dance, a twist here and there before she would run to take her leap over the bar.
But after a painful fall she decided high jump was not for her so instead she would stick with running.
With the 100, 200, 400 and 800 meters in her sight she soared and represented BM Little Athletics and the BM Grammar at State level in her secondary school years at Melbourne Park. At age 16 she decided she wanted to run at the Stawell Gift. So armed with her spikes and determination. No coach, mind you, off we went. She ran so well in her heats that her handicap was set high. She was so disappointed she didn’t win, but gee she gave it a hell of a shot.
Secondary School started off extremely well with coming 2nd to being dux of Year 7 at BM Grammar.
Sarah struggled with Asthma throughout her whole life. But it wasn’t until at age 15 when she had an attack in front of the doctors at the Sunshine Emergency Department that her Asthma was diagnosed as Sever Acute Bronchial Spasms. Prior to diagnosis her Asthma attacks disrupted her life with many ambulance visits and spending hours at the emergency departments here in BM and in Sunshine Hospitals. We thought that now we know what we are dealing with we would be able to keep her Asthma under control. But unfortunately after many specialists’ appointments, allergy tests, breathing techniques, natural therapies including counselling and nebulizers we couldn’t keep the Asthma under control. This all took a toll on Sarah. The illness impacted on her school life, her personal life and her working life.
Sarah began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. Both of which she thought helped to ease her stress levels that triggered her asthma attacks. This began her dependency on drugs.
The last two years of Sarah’s life she was having more and more severe Asthma attacks which was really disrupting her life in general. She became very frustrated with the whole process of Ambulance trips, Emergency departments and the usual prescription drugs she had to take.
Sarah was introduced to the drug Ice in 2012. This took over her life. At first she felt good but it wasn’t long before it took its hold over her. She sought help and was admitted to a detox bed here at the hospital in late July 2012.
I’ll never forget how appreciative Sarah was towards the staff and Dr who helped her when she was released from the Detox ward. She had so much zest for life. She was radiant and full of energy again. She was going to change the world and help her friends and others that were still using ICE to get off the drug.
After a relapse Sarah had booked herself back into detox on the 13th November 2012. She never made it as her life was brutally taken from her 3 days before.
I’m not trying to justify how or why Sarah started to take drugs but as a young adult that struggles with an illness, stress or other social issues this is when life can become a huge struggle for them. So it is important for all of us to understand that we shouldn’t be so judgmental on the choices that were made but to be supportive, with the right resources and education, towards our youth and young adults.
This is why Sarah’s Space has evolved. I want adolescents and young adults to know that there is somewhere they can get the right support, information and help with whatever hurdles they come across. I want them to feel comfortable and supported in seeking the help they require.
To everyone here today and those that couldn’t make it, I would like to personally say thank you for supporting the ‘Sarah Cafferkey Appeal’. Without your passion in helping our youth this would not be possible.