6 November 2018
In November 2018, Joey’s life was turned upside down when a leisurely horse ride, something he had enjoyed countless times before on his family farm in Lake Eacham, ended with him fighting for his life in intensive care. After falling from the horse and getting his foot stuck in the stirrup, the eight-year-old was dragged about 300 metres, leaving him with horrific injuries including multiple skull fractures, a broken nose and elbow, collapsed lungs, a torn liver and third-degree abrasions on his back. The accident also left him with severe brain damage, called diffuse axonal injury.
His heartbroken family feared they may lose him as they sat helplessly by his bedside in the Townsville Hospital intensive care unit. Doctors warned they should prepare themselves for the reality that he may never breathe on his own again.
But Joey’s life-changing injuries provided no match for his fighting spirit. After a month, he was breathing on his own and his condition had improved enough for him to be moved to the children’s ward. Another month and a few more health milestones later Joey was transferred to the Queensland Children’s Hospital for the next, and arguably toughest, leg of his rehabilitation journey.
When he first arrived on the rehabilitation ward in January 2019, Joey was unable to talk, walk, toilet, feed himself or even sit upright.
Under the care of a multidisciplinary team of medical, nursing and allied health specialists, Joey started an intense program of physiotherapy, speech pathology, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy and music therapy to get him back on his feet again – and on the way back to the boy he was before the accident.
“When we first arrived in Brisbane, we were unsure of what his life would look like moving forward. We had to take everything day by day,” his mother Sarah says.
“It was a long journey, but slowly but surely, he started to regain control of his body. We celebrated the small wins like when he said ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ for the first time, and then started repeating words he heard around him. Then he stood up again for the first time, with support, and then he took his first few steps since the accident.”
Joey’s courage and sheer willpower, combined with the determination of his rehab team, saw him defy the odds and continue to make promising progress.
On 12 June 2019 – 156 days after he was admitted – Joey walked proudly out of the ward, cheered on by a guard of honour from his care team, family and friends he made during his stay.
“It took a lot of hard work and persistence to get Joey to where he is now – a healthy and happy nine-year-old boy,” Sarah says.
“He’s doing well now and has regained his independence. He’s going to school and continuing to work with his physiotherapists and occupational therapists to regain his strength, balance and coordination.”
“We’re just so grateful to have our kind, caring little boy back.”