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A life-altering bus crash and 6 children: Inside the hectic life of Madeleine West.

In 2002, Madeleine West went out to grab snacks.

Twenty minutes later, she was loaded with everything you could need for a late night meal, from cereal to chocolate to corn chips.

Satisfied, she ventured back out onto Sydney’s Oxford St to head back to her hotel.

Madeleine West on her split from Shannon Bennett. Post continues below video.


Video via Channel 10

Stopping near a bus stop – yes, on the footpath – she turned her head to get her bearings. Then she was hit by a bus.

Now, it's been 18 years since that traumatic crash occurred. Writing for Stellar on Sunday, the actress opened up about the mental toll the accident still elicits in her.

West shares that "busy intersections scare the bejesus out of me, traffic crossings make me hyperventilate, and let’s not even mention bus stops."

In light of her fears, West decided to revisit the very bus stop where the accident took place on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

"Recently, I’ve decided to return to that same bus stop to exorcise a few demons that have proven resistant to therapy, hypnosis, counselling and stern directives to 'just get over it'" West shared. "To this day, I still go weak at the knees at the sight of a bus."

Whilst there, West explained a stranger, named Karen, realised she was struggling and offered her comfort. West stayed at the bus stop for over four hours, she explains, until "the bus comes that does not elicit terror".

"Feeling physically, psychologically and spiritually lighter, I make my way back to the airport and home to Byron Bay."

It's not the first time West has spoken openly about the traumatic event. 

The actress, now 39, sustained a number of serious injuries, some of which are visible in a graphic photo she shared to Instagram in May to commemorate 18 years since her near-death experience.

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"Today I’m celebrating 18 years since being hit by a bus in the head," she wrote alongside the image. "Always wanted to be the kind of girl who stopped traffic. Just preferably not with my face."

The photo was taken on West’s road to recovery, "but doesn’t reveal the three skull fractures, leaking brain fluid, the cerebral hemorrhage and hematoma, the busted teeth, broken capillaries, the wounds that wouldn’t knit, the endless nights of excruciating pain, the months of therapy to regain gross motor skills".

It did, however, show the impact the accident had on her appearance.

 




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Today I’m celebrating 18 years since being hit by a bus in the head…always wanted to be the kind of girl who stopped traffic. Just preferably not with my face. This pic was snapped on the road to healing, but doesn’t reveal the three skull fractures leaking brain fluid, the cerebral hemorrhage and hematoma, the busted teeth, broken capillaries, the wounds that wouldn’t knit, the endless nights of excruciating pain, the months of therapy to regain gross motor skills, but it demonstrates what I thought was the greatest tragedy: the effect it had on my #appearance. However: that would be the greatest #gift. You see, The way we look, as definitive as we think it is, actually makes up the tiniest portion of who we are. Yet if we take all we are, all we have to offer, our gifts, our personality, our ambitions, our #dreams, and try to cram it into that tiny percentage, then how much will we miss out on? How much will the world miss out on? And what kind of world do we live in if everyone slices and dices the essence of who they are to allow their most definitive character trait to be their appearance? I learned that no-one should ever be forced to give up their dreams. No matter who we are, where we come from or how we look, our dreams are what sustain us. Our ambitions get us out of bed in the morning, and if you have the #courage, the #determination, the drive, and the willingness to work hard to transform the dream into reality, then nothing can stop you … not even a #bus. To all the girls and boys out there, desperately primping, pimping and punishing themselves, labouring to make themselves Insta-ready, editing those selfies, all for a world that tells them their nose doesn’t seem to fit their face, that their butt is too big, those boobs are too small, where is your waist? Your perfect hair? Your perfect teeth? Your perfect mani-pedi? I call BS, and encourage you to as well. The glass ceiling is yours for the breaking, and at the end of the day, the most attractive quality you can possess is belief in yourself.

A post shared by  Madeleine West Actor (@madmadswest) on

West said this was what she considered the greatest tragedy, but she’s come to learn the way we look "actually makes up the tiniest portion of who we are".

"What kind of world do we live in if everyone slices and dices the essence of who they are to allow their most definitive character trait to be their appearance?" she asked.

"To all the girls and boys out there, desperately primping, pimping and punishing themselves, labouring to make themselves Insta-ready, editing those selfies, all for a world that tells them their nose doesn’t seem to fit their face, that their butt is too big, those boobs are too small, where is your waist? Your perfect hair? Your perfect teeth? Your perfect mani-pedi? I call BS, and encourage you to as well.

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"The glass ceiling is yours for the breaking, and at the end of the day, the most attractive quality you can possess is belief in yourself."

At the time of the accident, West was 22 years old. Her career was just beginning; she had been playing Dee Bliss on Neighbours since 2000, but when she saw herself in the mirror the first time in hospital, she thought her acting dreams had vanished.

“I thought my career, the one thing I had striven so bloody hard for, the thing I thought defined and justified my very existence was over,” she wrote in a 2018 recounting of the accident for news.com.au.

“Who would hire this face? Who in their right mind would want this mess front and centre of stage or screen?”

Then she realised she had made a mistake. Her career was not over, and it wasn’t defined by her face.

After an arduous month, including rehabilitation and reconstructive surgery, she returned to the Neighbours set.

After leaving the soap in 2004, West dabbled in improv, comedy and song-writing alongside her acting career.

Among her most well-known roles are as an escort in Satisfaction, underworld girlfriend Danielle McGuire in Underbelly, and Kath Rickards in Channel 10’s juicy Playing for Keeps.

Oh, and in 2017 she returned to Neighbours as both Dee and her twin sister Andrea.

West is also kept busy by her six children Phoenix, 14, Hendrix, 12, Xascha, nine, Xanthe, seven, and twins Xalia and Marguax, five, with ex-partner Shannon Bennett.

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Speaking to WHO for its sexiest people edition in November 2018, West said that she may have a full on work schedule, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have time for her children.

“I’m a very hands-on mum,” she said. “But I’ve reached a point where my kids are a lot more independent and that allows me a new degree of autonomy, and allows me to pursue my career much more full-throttle. It’s crazy and chaotic, and a nightmare, and the house looks like a pigsty more often than it doesn’t.”

She has worked hard to keep her family out of the public eye, and even turned down offers for the family to feature in its own reality show.

West and Bennett met in 2005 and split in 2018. Despite the break-up, both relocated their family from Melbourne to Byron Bay in 2019.

West told The Kyle and Jackie O Show in October, her and Bennett’s needs no longer aligned after 13 years together.

“I’m a big believer that everything in life has a season. We change. We evolve,” she said.

“At some point we go, ‘Well, I have certain needs I want to have met and you’ve got certain needs and if the two don’t combine and cross in the middle, why fight it and be miserable?'”

“I don’t think that’s fair to the children either to see two parents that are constantly at cross purposes.”

West’s other passion is activism, especially for the environment. She uses her social media platforms to share how her followers can fight climate change, and raise awareness to the plights of asylum seekers and those in detention centres.

Feature Images: Instagram.

This post was originally published on May 27, 2020, and updated on August 2, 2020.


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