Swimmer's stunning gesture for war veteran in induced coma
SWIMMING: A Coffs Harbour swimming sensation has made a touching gesture for a struggling war veteran who was fighting for his life in hospital.
Madeleine McTernan, who competed at the Australian Age Swimming Championships in Adelaide in April, dedicated her 50m backstroke race and the gold medal she subsequently won for East Timor and Iraq war veteran Brad Fewson.
At the time of her victory Fewson was in the Wagga Wagga hospital in an induced coma.
Fewson's medical conditions were as a result of his military and police service for Australia.
Whilst serving, Fewson was exposed to repeated roadside bomb strikes at close range, which resulted in him suffering from traumatic brain injury which later also caused him to develop Parkinson's disease.
McTernan, who now lives on the Gold Coast as she furthers her swimming career, said she felt obliged to do something for Fewson.
"I was overwhelmed and saddened when I read about Brad's story on my dad's Facebook page,” McTernan said.
"All he wanted to do was lead the Anzac Day parade in his home town, and here he was in hospital fighting for his life.
"I said to dad, 'can we help Brad and his family?'. Dad said 'yes why not dedicate a race to Brad and his family this evening.”
On April 21 McTernan's father Paul rang a family friend of the Fewson's and told them what his daughter was planning.
That evening in the final of the 50m backstroke, McTernan blitzed the field in a time of 33.16 seconds and won the gold medal for the Fewson family.
Less than 48-hours later something amazing happened, as Fewson awoke from his coma and was able to be discharged from hospital the following day.
True to his word, Fewson led the Anzac Day RSL parade on April 25 surrounded by friends and family.
McTernan was overcome with joy when she saw the news footage of Fewson leading the parade.
She shed a tear, inspired by a man she hadn't even met.
"I was so impressed by Brad's fighting spirit, I am looking forward to one day meeting and talking to Brad and his family, they are truly inspirational people”.
The Aquinas Collage year 12 student had her gold medal engraved with 'Madeleine to Brad and Laura' and mailed it to the Fewson's.
Brad and Laura were extremely gracious of McTernan's gesture and honoured a top-level athlete would give away a hard-earned medal for them.
Laura was overjoyed when they received McTernan's medal in the mail.
"I cried when I opened the post pack and saw the medal, Brad said to me this will be displayed in his bar proudly for all to see.
"We thank Maddie and her family for being such beautiful people.”
McTernan's swimming coach Ken Malcolm wasn't surprised by his pupil's gesture.
"Maddie is a such a caring and humble young lady,” Malcolm said.
"She is always happy to help others in her squad at training, she is pleasure to coach and she is a great asset to the Australian Para-swimming team.”