BALLINA'S Mat Lee showed his bravery last week.
The man who survived a shark attack spoke about his ordeal and recovery at last week's school assembly to induct the inaugural Ballina Coast High School Student Representative Council.
Mr Lee opened his address by telling the students he was nervous as it was the first time he had spoken to such a large public gathering about the attack.
The theme for this year at the school is Be Brave.
Principal Janeen Silcock spoke about how she can get nervous when speaking to a large audience.
But she said "being brave means fear does not stop you from doing things, especially if it's the right thing to do.”
Mat told the gathering that he went for his first bodyboard since the July 2, 2015, early this year, catching waves at Shelly Beach, which neighbours Lighthouse Beach where he nearly lost his life.
He followed that up with a surfing holiday to the Cook Islands, with the students applauding him for getting back in the water.
Mat recounted the sudden attack, and spoke of his luck in that the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was at the time carrying blood on board as a trial, his luck that a leading vascular surgeon was at the Gold Coast Hospital on his day off when Mat arrived, and his luck that the shark bite did not damage any arteries.
Mat also acknowledged his bravery when he admitted that, when the realisation of what had happened to him hit after he woke from an induced coma, he was in a "very dark place”.
He spoke of his fears after surgery that he may never walk again, or one of his legs may have to be amputated, or he may never gain full use of his foot.
He said his two years of rehabilitation were all about hard work.
He said the two years of recovery was a "slippery slope of ups and downs” when it came to his mental health, but he sought help.
He praised the support he received from many in the community, but particularly his partner, now fiance, Suzy Gerada.
Mat is an advocate for beyondblue, providing support to those with depression.
Just recently, Mat climbed Mt Warning as a fundraiser for the organisation.
If this story has raised issues phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue.org.au.
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