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If ever there is a reminder that life is beautiful, it is talking to Sophie Delezio on the phone from her new home in London. She was just a cherubic two-year-old when she broke Australia's heart over her extraordinary courage following a freak car crash at her Sydney child care centre in 2003.
Her injuries were catastrophic – burns to 85 per cent of her body and her feet, fingers and an ear had to be amputated. Now she's a stunning 18-year-old woman who not only enjoys every minute of every day, but is ecstatic about all the wonders and adventures that lie ahead.
"I am so happy, I just love it here," Sophie says on a break from exploring her new neighbourhood in London's trendy Paddington suburb.
"It's only been a short time, but I already feel so at home. I've been walking around and exploring and soaking everything in, all the history and culture. London is an incredible city. And yes, I even love the weather – cold and rainy suits me fine, but so far I've had sunshine and that's great, too!"
Sophie's moved from her home in Sydney, which she shared with her "incredible" parents Ron and Carolyn, to study sociology and international relations after completing high school last year. She still hasn't decided which school to attend, but when It's Your Day caught up with her, she was leaning towards SAS University of London.
"I chose sociology and international relations because I've always liked the idea of doing community work," she explains.
"I want to improve society any way I can and I think that my understanding of disability should be put to use helping others. I am hoping the international relationships part of the course will give me an opportunity to travel to other countries to do that. I'd love to study in New York, Canada, or Europe... there is so much I want to see and so much I want to do. I'm so excited about where life takes me next. I have so much to look forward to."
Part of Sophie's plans when she is fully settled into uni life is to resume her love of rowing. "How amazing would it be to row on the Thames!" she says, enthused.
Then there's Sophie's dancing, acting and singing and, of course, there's dating!
"Give me a break," she chuckles when asked if anyone has caught her eye. "I've not been here long! There's plenty of time for that."
WATCH: Sophie is all grown up! Check out her inspiring interview on The Morning Show Post continues after video...
Sophie admits saying goodbye to her parents and brother Mitchell was "the hardest thing". However, she credits her dad Ron, a former electrician, and mum Carolyn, a teacher, for making it easier for her.
"My parents are amazing," Sophie says. "They have always been so incredibly supportive and encouraging of everything and anything I want to do. They kept assuring me I was doing the right thing with this move and everything would be OK, and that meant the world. I feel very lucky to have the mum and dad I do. But thanks to technology, I don't feel isolated or far away from my family as we FaceTime every day. I still get to see what's happening at home as if I hadn't left."
These daily video chats also mean Sophie gets to see her beloved assistance dog Willow, who she decided, reluctantly, was best not making the trip to London with her.
"Leaving her was so hard, but she's so smart and special that I believe she knew it was coming and that I would have to leave to find my way in life one day. I couldn't take her away from my family – she is so loved at home and I know how happy and content she is. It's funny because she used to hide my shoes all the time and I would always have to go searching. It feels really strange now to find them where I left them."
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Sophie is aware that her treatment is ongoing – she still needs more operations to "release" her scars to allow more movement and that her prosthetic limbs can cause pain and skin tears. These and other ailments crop up as a result of the massive trauma her body received.
Three years following her tragic accident, Sophie made national headlines again when she was struck by a car as she crossed the road in her wheelchair. She was thrown 18 metres down the road, suffering a broken jaw, a broken shoulder, broken ribs and bruising to her brain and head.
"I have become quite good at bandaging my wounds, but yes, I do have a doctor and a medical team in London to look after me," she says.
"I'm lucky in that one of the first doctors who nursed me following the first accident now lives here. At some stage I'll need another operation on my scars, but I'm hoping it can wait a while. If I can't, it's not a big problem – I'll come back to Sydney to have it done."
With so many people to meet in this new chapter of her life, Sophie knows that questions about her past and injuries will crop up – and she's fine with that.
"It's a big part of who I am and I certainly don't feel a need to hide it," she insists. "I have nothing to be ashamed of, and it's great to let people I care about know it isn't ruining or controlling my life. I also have a dark sense of humour and can make fun of my situation. I refuse to take life too seriously."
In fact, Sophie now looks at what happened to her as something of a gift.
"I'm philosophical the accident happened for a reason," she says. "It brought out so much goodness in others in terms of how they reached out to me with love and support, but it also shone a light on disabilities and made them more recognised and accepted in society as a whole, which is something I am very proud of.
"I have met so many incredible people because of what happened – my carers and doctors, and the public who reached out. I'm aware I would've missed out on knowing these people who mean so much to me had it not happened."
So, what does Sophie see when she looks in the mirror these days? "I really don't notice any scarring or disfigurement. Recently I got hair extensions, which are fantastic, I love them. I can't grow hair on one side of my head but now it's possible to have hair anyway," she says. "I am so grateful to be alive and excited about my future – there is no point staring at scars."
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