Max off to university after trip across Africa
IT HAS been a triumphant year for a former Truro School pupil left paralysed during a freak accident while playing rugby.
Although confined to a wheelchair with limited movement in his hands, Max Levene, 20, fulfilled a dream to travel across Africa and is about to start at Norwich University studying business and economics.
While Max went on a ten-day pilgrimage to Lourdes in France and enjoyed a few days at the Olympics, his father, Guy, celebrated his own surprise achievement – being appointed OBE.
"It came totally out of the blue," said Max's mother Yvonne, of Perrancoombe, near Truro.
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"We were amazed as Guy had only just left the Army and the MoD phoned to say he was going to appear in the Queen's Birthday Honour's list, which was published the following day. We rushed out to buy a paper just to see for ourselves that it was true."
The former lieutenant-colonel was honoured for his peacekeeping in volatile eastern Africa, including assistance in Somali peacekeeping missions in Mogadishu.
Max, who was paralysed when he injured his neck in a school rugby game in October 2009, has shown his father's resilience and toughness and is determined to live life to the full.
During five months in Ethiopia, where his father was based with the military, he spent three days travelling across the desert in Nairobi.
"The scenery was beautiful," he said. "There were lots of birds and we saw people in traditional African costume. Ethiopia was the last place that my parents saw me before the accident. It was a place that we enjoyed very much."
This week Max will be one of thousands of students enjoying freshers' week, his first time away from his family and friends, something his mother is all too aware of.
She said: "I still feel very protective towards Max. It is very hard letting go, but I know that it's the best thing for him. He needs to be with young people and in the thick of things."
As a paraplegic, Max will need a full-time carer at college. It takes him two hours to get ready each day, which his mother has been helping with since he left Truro School in 2011.
He said he was "excited" and "nervous" at the prospect of university life, but his mother wanted him to be treated the same as any other student.
"We loved the Olympics and Paralympics. The UK is at the forefront of dealing with disabilities," said Yvonne.
"My sister was disabled and in a wheelchair in the Sixties. There was far more discrimination then. We haven't come across that, you can see a sea-change in people's attitudes."