HER remarkable story of survival is nothing short of a miracle, and has inspired many others.
Now Sophie Delezio has reached another milestone — she’s learning how to drive for the first time.
Delezio, now 17, was severely injured on December 15, 2003, when a 68-year-old driver suffered a seizure and crashed his Holden Commodore through the wall of the Roundhouse Childcare Centre, in Sydney’s north shore suburb of Fairlight.
At the time, seven were injured. But Delezio and toddler Molly Wood suffered shocking burns. Delezio had third degree burns to 85 per cent of her body. She lost both feet, some fingers on her right hand and her right ear. Wood had a petrol burn on the back of her head.
Both of them were sleeping at the time. Delezio was just two-years-old.
She was rushed to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and underwent multiple lifesaving operations.
The Australian public got behind them, wishing and praying they would make it as their lives hung in the balance. Both have made their own brave recoveries.
For Delezio, disaster struck her again in May 2006 when she was being pushed in a wheelchair over a pedestrian crossing by her nanny.
She was struck by a car, flung 18 metres through the air and suffered a heart attack, a broken jaw, a broken shoulder, a tear to her lung and other injuries. She also lost sense of smell.
Despite all of the odds, she survived — and has now revealed how getting behind the wheel of a car has left her feeling like she is “in heaven”.
In an interview with Woman’s Day, Delezio has told of how she has clocked up the required 120 hours for her NSW driver’s licence in just eight months by driving to and from school on weekdays.
She also drives around Sydney on weekends, with one of her parents — Ron and Carolyn — or a carer who helps supervise her.
“I’m in heaven as long as I’m the one in the driver’s seat and in control. I just love to drive,” she grins. ”I enjoy the way it makes me feel — free!,” she said.
Her drive to life to the fullest doesn’t stop at driving. Her Instagram account reveals how she went skydiving in Queenstown, New Zealand, last year, which she described as “one of the coolest experiences” of her life.
Delezio is now in her final year of high school and will sit her final exams for the Higher School Certificate.
But while she is planning to leave home next year to study abroad in the UK, she said she is here to “live life”.
“I’m always telling myself I need to crack down and study, but I’m also here to live life, and the busier I am, the better!” she told Woman’s Day.
Delezio has had numerous operations on her body since her near-fatal accident. One of her many operations involved stretching her scalp to allow her hair follicles to be implanted so she could have a full head of hair one day.
But after finding a hairdresser who could give her hair extensions, she now also has transformed her look and was able to share it with her close friends as they celebrated at their Year 10 school formal.
She is also keeping up her interest in theatre and acting. At 15, she starred in a Stage Artz production of The Little Mermaid.
At the time, she admitted dancing was not easy on prosthetic limbs, but she could do it.
“I never thought I’d be able to anything that physical,” she told The Manly Daily.
“I’ve loved this experience so much, I hope theatre is in my future.”
At 15, she also filmed her first scenes as an actor in the Dance Academy movie that was shot in Sydney. She was a featured extra.
Delezio has also spoken of her hopes to represent Australia at the 2020 Paralympics in swimming or rowing.
In 2015, she told The Sunday Telegraph: “Coxing is a lot of fun — but I really like rowing as well.”
For now though, she continues to work at her local Coles supermarket on the checkout. She also has an assistance dog named Willow, age six, who helps her daily.