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13 February 2020

Ibrahim

Photo by Ross Swanborough

I was born in Port Hedland Hospital in 1990, the only boy with four sisters. It was a rocky start to life: I was very sick for the first few months and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong. After about three months and just after my parents got told that I had about three days to live, it finally became clear that I had cystic fibrosis. I can only imagine the relief of my parents and the stress that must have put on them.

When I was four my family moved to a small country town south of Perth called Manjimup, where we lived on a cherry farm. Dad was doing fly-in fly-out work while Mum took care of us kids. I was in and out of hospitals. Mum was very supportive – she is a very strong woman and I can’t thank her enough for what she has done for me throughout my life. I remember lots of medications, needles and physio for my lungs.

I was on adult medication, which made me struggle to control my emotions. I wasn’t an easy person to get along with at times. All I wanted to do was lie on my bed and watch TV. I also struggled in school. One of the highlights at that time was the Starlight Foundation giving me and my whole family a trip to Queensland to visit theme parks. I got to ride in the Batmobile and meet the Scooby-Doo gang – that was amazing!

After I graduated Year 12, my health deteriorated, and I was told that I needed a double lung transplant to save my life. Left with the prognosis of less than six months to live, I got extremely lucky and received a transplant in 2010. A few weeks before the transfer I had the chance to run out with St Kilda at a West Coast Eagles game – a highlight of my life! 

Unfortunately, that was the last time we’ve beaten the Eagles in Perth. I’m a massive Saints supporter and try to go to a game every season when they come over to Perth.

After recovering from the transplant, it took me some time to find my feet. I wasn’t doing much and struggled to find work until I joined The Big Issue in 2017 through my support worker at the time, who was also one of the coaches of the Big Issue Street Soccer program.

I love being part of the vendor community and having a chat with customers. It’s helped me a lot with my social skills. I also started going to Street Soccer, and it really helps me keep fit. I should be the next big thing considering some of the goals I’ve scored over the years!

Last year was a great year for me. I went to Sydney to take part in the Street Soccer Nationals, got my driver’s licence and found a job as a cleaner for a few hours a week. I’m loving life and hopefully things will get better and better. I want to get married and one day have kids, and of course. I hope St Kilda will break their premiership drought very soon.

I would like to thank everyone around the country who buys The Big Issue!

Photo by Ross Swanborough

Interview by Simon Grammes
Ibrahim sells The Big Issue at David Jones, Hay St Mall, Perth