Police officer Simon Schembri lost his right arm in a near fatal traffic accident a year ago today. But, looking back, he knows he could have lost so much more.
“My life changed a lot that day – what I used to do in the past, I just can’t do it anymore. And as for the future, I don’t know what it will be like,” he told the Times of Malta.
The soft-spoken and camera-shy 48-year-old rarely gives interviews.
In fact, he says he would not be doing so if he did not want to be raising awareness about the risks taken by police officers and other disciplined forces.
He was propelled into the national spotlight after he was dragged along several metres of tarmac under a speeding car in a hit-and-run incident in May 2018. The incident saw one of his arms amputated and he suffered extensive injuries to his other limbs, his upper body and lungs – in all, he endured some 60 per cent disability.
Mr Schembri had tried to stop 17-year-old Liam Debono who had allegedly been driving a third party’s Mercedes without a licence or a seat belt.
The youth today stands charged with attempted murder and is out on bail after pleading not guilty to the charges.
Asked to describe the impact of losing a limb, Mr Schembri says it all depends on how the limb is lost.
It’s one thing, he says, if it’s a normal accident, but “it’s another…” – the unfinished sentence hangs in the interview room, the pained look in his eyes suggesting that it is another thing all together if your limb is taken away from you.
“Maybe one day we will be able to discuss that, but not right now,” he said.
In fact, throughout the interview, Mr Schembri skirts the details of the incident that led to his gruesome injuries.
His lawyers have urged him not to prejudice the ongoing court case by speaking publicly about it.
I had a nice life. I didn’t want anything else
“I had a nice life. I didn’t want anything else – I was quite happy how I was,” he said.
Dwelling on why he “had” a nice life, Mr Schembri said he and his family were only starting to regain some semblance of normality.
“A lot of things changed in one year.”
Three days of the week he is at Karin Grech Hospital's amputee rehabilitation unit for physical therapy. And as for his job, Mr Schembri now spends his days behind a desk, or raising awareness about the risks taken by first responders.
“This is something that I am passionate about. Everyone is going to pick up the phone at least once in their lifetime and need emergency help, first responders. These people that answer the call, they risk their lives to help us and they deserve respect,” he said.
Since the incident, Mr Schembri has set up the Blue Light Foundation which provides psychological and financial support to members of disciplined forces involved in serious incidents.
It also raises awareness on the perils the officers face while on duty. To the public, his message is simple: respect first responders.
“You never know when you are going to need these people,” he said.
What could seem like just another ordinary day could quickly turn into quite an extraordinary one through a simple twist of fate.
And, to fellow officers and other first responders, his message is: “Get home safe.”
“From my experience, I can say that there is always someone waiting for you at home, so get home safe to them.”
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