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A young life altered forever

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The parents of a 15-year-old bashing victim took two weeks to prepare their thoughts on how their lives had been changed forever by the brutal attack. Here is a mother's story...

MY SON called me while I was out walking on Sunday afternoon and said he was vomiting and had a sore head because a boy hit him when he stepped in to break up a fight.

As I had recently done a first aid course, this sounded like concussion and I said I would be home soon as I was in the middle of training.

I told him to lie down with an ice pack and to have some Panadol.

About 15 minutes later I called him back and he was panicky saying he couldn't stop vomiting and his head felt like it was about to explode. I got home and he looked pale and anxious and in pain. I called the hospital and stated the facts and also said he couldn't stand the light and was angry and frustrated which is not like him.

We arrived at the hospital about 8pm and he was pacing and agitated. We finally had a senior doctor see us and he had a CT scan done about midnight by a junior doctor who I will never forget saying: "He has blood on his brain and it looks like both lobes".

Trust me, this isn't what you want to hear about your 15-year-old son. I was in shock.

The next day a senior doctor read out the CT results which sickened and frightened me. Two pools of blood in the frontal lobes, blood at the base of the brain with a fracture in the thickest part of the skull and a displaced fracture of the eye socket. He was placed on anti-seizure medication and morphine to slow the continuous vomiting.

I sat with him until late at night as my husband was in Melbourne looking after his own sick father.

My son was on two-hour observations, shaking in pain, vomiting continually and unable to sleep due to the pain. All I could do was hold his hand and worry.

He started hallucinating, mini-nightmares of 10 seconds or so that he later described as "someone chasing me". He was waking up in a sweat and flinching, trying to get away from the nightmares. This went on for days.

Our life had been thrown into turmoil. We knew by this stage he had a very serious head and brain injury but no one could explain the extent of it.

After a week, doctors were happy with his improved state and wanted to send him to Townsville to see specialists. He was released so we could drive him there. He was lying on the back seat as we drove near Proserpine and the hospital rang to check on our progress. I asked my son to answer it and he said "I don't know how". He then said he vomited a little in his mouth and I said: "Let me know if you need to vomit, I'll pull over" and suddenly "bang" his head hit the back window and I could see in the rear vision mirror that he was in a fit.

I just remember being in fear. I pulled over, opened the back door, he fell into my arms shaking, convulsing. I was screaming at him "stay with me, stay with me" and I honestly thought that this was it.

All I could think of was: "My youngest son is going to die in my arms."

A clear fluid was pouring out of his mouth. He's so tall I can't sit him up. I tried to wave down cars but no one would stop. I'm still holding him in my arms. He's still convulsing. Why won't it stop? He's gurgling, can't breathe, won't stop, have to get oxygen in.

The ambulance took 20 minutes to arrive and he's taken to Proserpine and then flown to Townsville.

The doctors tell me that his brain is scrambled and sending mixed messages and it doesn't look good.

I ask: "What do you mean," and they reply: "You don't fit for this long. He could die, I'm sorry."

I just keep holding his hand. He's only 15 and he can't die.

He is put on life support in an induced coma in ICU in Townsville. Next day when they woke him, he couldn't remember anything.

He didn't know the alphabet or numbers. Treatment takes more than a week.

I can't explain the difference in him. This is not the son I knew.

He's different in many ways - tastes, mood swings, smell, he gets upset at the slightest thing.

He is unable to return to school and cannot proceed into the apprenticeship he planned for until he has medical clearance.

He cannot apply for a driver's licence which is a heartbreaking issue for him. His obvious difficulties are short-term memory loss, speech, comprehension, emotional problems, anger, frustration.

The doctors say there is nothing more they can do. Time will tell us about any permanent effects.

Nothing the court can do against his attacker is going to make any change to our son's condition.

The strain and stress to our whole family has been huge and we all know that we have had our lives changed forever.

All I could do was hold his hand and worry.

I was screaming at him 'stay with me, stay with me' and I honestly thought that this was it.

Topics:  attack, brain damage


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