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A young man who has overcome enormous odds to show how people can recover from severe brain injuries has started work in the local Liverpool office of the national law firm, Slater and Gordon.
Jonathan Koenig, 26, suffered a severe brain injury after being hit by a car when he was 12 while playing in a quiet street outside his family home in Menai.
Jonathan was in a coma for six weeks and was given very little chance of recovering. Doctors predicted that if he survived the 1997 accident he would be unable to walk, talk or eat.
Despite doctors fearing the worst, over the past 12 years Jonathan returned to school, passed his HSC and a TAFE course, now has a driver’s licence, snow skis, plays tennis and the piano.
Jonathan started work in the Liverpool office of Slater and Gordon in mid-February as a part time office assistant with responsibility for opening and sorting mail, photocopying and general administrative duties.
Jonathan said “I love my new job at Slater and Gordon, and it’s not because they pay me – which is good too – but it’s because they accept me.”
Michael Lawandi, from Slater and Gordon in Liverpool, said Jonathan is a real asset to the firm.
“Jonathan is an incredibly valuable addition to our staff in Liverpool. He is an independent worker who fits in well with our Liverpool team and clients.”
Jonathan’s mother, Cheryl, is a long time advocate for brain injury sufferers, the 2009 NSW Woman of the Year and a Life Member of Brain Injury Australia, NSW.
“A lot of businesses promote themselves as an equal opportunity employer, but until they actually hire a person with a disability, then sadly they fall short of the mark,” Ms Koenig said.
“People with disability are just like you or I when it comes to how they feel about working and contributing to society.
“It’s not until we are without work, that we recognise how much structure, identity and self esteem work provides,” she said.
In 2006 Cheryl helped fundraise $160,000 for a new wheel-chair modified bus for Liverpool Hospital and from proceeds raised from her book, Paper Cranes, she has donated more than $30,000 for services in the area of brain injury.
Slater and Gordon works closely with the Liverpool Hospital’s Brain Injury Unit and is an active supporter of its ‘Head 2 Work’ service which provides vocational assessment, retraining and job placement for victims of brain injuries