Reference > Erinsborough News > I Don't Recognise My Own Face
In Sydney to lend her support to a charity fundraiser, Neighbours beauty Madeleine West was hit by a bus – then robbed
Actress Madeleine West used to joke that her favourite colours were black and blue because she bruised so easily. But it’s no laughing matter now, as the Neighbours’ favourite battles to overcome horrific injuries she suffered when a bus hit her.
With her pretty face, her arms and her chest swathed in surgical dressings and bandages to cover the bruised and bloodied flesh beneath, the petite star is given morphine to numb the pain.
Her left eye is swollen shut, the eye socket fractured. Bleeding on her brain has been closely monitored with brain scans conducted by staff at an inner-city Sydney hospital. Reconstructive plastic surgery will restore her ice-blonde beauty but she has been warned that there will be facial scarring.
“Right now, it’s a face I don’t recognise – and that comes from someone who’s spent the past three years being made up for television,” the 22-year-old tells Woman’s Day as she lies propped up in a hospital bed. The room is filled with flowers from Neighbours castmates, family and friends – including her best mate, former Home and Away actress Kimberley Cooper.
Madeleine’s ordeal began after she flew from Melbourne to Sydney on June 13, to support a Kids Helpline charity fundraiser, to be held the next night.
Madeleine had already worked a full day. Having arrived on the Neighbours Melbourne set at 6am, she had rushed off to a hair appointment before hopping on a plane to Sydney at 6.30pm. By the time she got to her hotel, she was tired and hungry and decided to venture out for some food. Dressed in jeans and a jumper, she stepped out onto busy Oxford Street, in Darlinghurst.
“I thought I’d pop across the road and grab something for dinner. It had been such a long day,” say the actress, whose character of Dione Bliss was on the verge of setting Toadie’s (Ryan Moloney) heart aflutter in Neighbours’ big romance of the year.
“I remember going into the supermarket and getting some vegetarian lasagne and tuna pasta salad, and I remember when I was leaving I signed an autograph for someone at the checkout, then walked outside. The next thing I recall was waking up in the emergency room, looking up at the bright lights and the faces of two policemen above me. I can’t remember any bus. I’ve been told I was standing on the pavement when the bus came and took me out.”
With her groceries splattered on the road, three good Samaritans – two women and the man who had earlier asked for Madeleine’s autograph – rushed to help.
During the confusion, a thief seized the moment and stole Madeleine’s purse which contained $200 cash and her credit cards. Police are still investigating the incident, which occurred at 9.50pm.
Unconscious Madeleine was rushed to hospital, where she drifted in and out of awareness as doctors examined her injuries. At some point, although she was unable to tell them where she lived, Madeleine somehow managed to dredge up her mother Julie’s phone number.
“It was Friday before I spoke to her, but my poor face was so mashed up I wasn’t capable of coherent speech,” she recalls.
Julie flew from regional Victoria to be at her daughter’s bedside later that day, Madeleine’s stepfather Matt and stepsiblings, Jane, eight, and five-year-old Jack, jetted in on Sunday.
“As Jack walked in he had a look of horror on his face. I don’t think he recognised me,” Madeleine says.
“I lost an uncle to a horrible car accident and I’ve always been frightened of driving. I don’t have a licence for that very reason. Now I’ve been hit by a bus, I’m just so grateful to be here. I’ve been told I could have died if the bus had knocked me into the traffic or I’d been dragged under, so someone is really looking after me. Yes, I do feel lucky to be alive, and it’s been humbling. I’m not accustomed to seeing pity is people’s eyes, but the number of people who have gone out of their way to support me has overwhelmed me and restored my faith in human kindness. To the three witnesses, the people who helped me at the scene, thank you for helping a person in need. I don’t have enough words to thank them, but I hope to in person one day. And the doctors and nurses have been wonderful.”
TV executives have given their star three weeks to recuperate. Madeleine’s only regret is feeling as though she has let down the famously tight-knit Neighbours family.
“I’m going to hate being away from work, I said to everyone, ‘I’m so sorry I’ve blown the schedule out of the water’, but they told me to worry about getting better first, then worry about work.”
Neighbours producer Peter Dodds says storyline changes have been put in place to ensure Madeleine has time to recover. “I can’t give too much away, but storylines will be adjusted. We look forward to seeing her smiling face back on set,” he says.
Even in hospital, Madeleine retained her sparkling humour. “I’ve always wanted to be the kind of girl who stopped traffic – but not like this,” she quips.
This article originally appeared in Woman's Day magazine, dated June 2002, and was written by Di Stanley