12 Miracles of 2021
Published: 14 December 2021
Meet the heroes of PICU
Every year, the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Townsville University Hospital cares for the region's most unwell children.
Before sharing the stories of 2021’s miracle children, the Townsville Hospital and Health Service is shining a spotlight on the faces behind the care in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
Made up of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, and administrative support, the PICU team works 24/7 to deliver life-changing care to children and their families who find themselves battling against illness and injury.
PICU clinical nurse consultant Kirsten White said 2021 had been a challenging year for the team with every single staff member working together to support one another.
“This has been my first year as part of the PICU team and with a 15 per cent increase in patients from 2020, it has been busier than normal and challenging at times,” Ms White said.
“We’re a very multi-disciplinary, cohesive and supportive team. We try and support each other at work, and also try to be very social and build up our rapport with each other outside of work too so we can be better at what we do each day.
“This really helps us pull together as a team to provide amazing care and support to children and their families as they go through an incredibly difficult time in their lives.”
Ms White said while the job was challenging, the PICU team also feel privileged to play a role in improving the lives of North Queenslanders.
“No-one wants to have their child or family members end up in PICU or the hospital, and as we near the holiday season it does get even harder to be here which is something our team appreciates and understands,” she said.
“The most rewarding part of our job is providing a really high level of care to unwell children throughout North Queensland and being able to extend that care to the families or carers of those patients.
“It is more satisfying being able to provide care to the whole family because we value that really family-centred support here in PICU.”
Ms White said for the holiday season, the team had redecorated to bring some festive spirit and cheer to the unit.
“On the first day of December we decked our halls with personalised decorations to try and bring some holiday happiness into the space,” she said.
“We took a photo of each staff member in PICU and made either a little reindeer or Santa with their face which is a nice way to bring some festive cheer into the workspace and lift the mood while we care for people who are spending their Christmas at the hospital.
“On Christmas Day we have a special visitor ready to visit the children, as well as presents for any kids – and their families – staying with us at the time.
“We want everyone to feel as welcome and supported as they’re here.”
A routine hearing screening at Townsville University Hospital saved the life of nine-day old baby George Galloway in January this year when his nurse noticed concerning symptoms.
George’s mum Emily Galloway said George had been breathing heavily and had a ‘sniffly’ nose and had asked her GP about it at his seven-day check-up.
“The GP wasn’t too concerned and put it down to a cold, so we kept an eye on him,” she said.
“Two days later at his hearing screening the nurse noticed his heavy breathing too, but I told her the GP had said it wasn’t anything serious.
“She noticed that his skin was slightly mottled but told me if he got worse, became lethargic or stopped having wet nappies that I should take him back to the GP or to the ED.”
After the hearing screening Mrs Galloway took George back to the GP who said to come back in two days if he worsened.
“Afterwards I still wasn’t happy and kept thinking of the look on the nurses face, so I took him to the ED,” she said.
“When we arrived the resus team assessed him and he was taken to the paediatric intensive care unit with a suspected chest infection.
“More tests showed that he had multiple heart defects and in early the next morning we flew with RACQ LifeFlight to the Queensland Children’s Hospital where he was diagnosed with a hyperplastic aortic arch.”
The diagnosis meant George’s aorta wasn’t carrying oxygenated blood from his heart to his lower body.
“I just kept thinking ‘is my baby going to live?’,” Mrs Galloway said.
“Medication was used to keep the blood flowing while he gained more weight before they operated but it didn’t work for long, so he had open heart surgery at 3.5 kilos.”
Mrs Galloway said the risks of the surgery included mild to major disability and death.
“This was traumatising, but without it, the organs in his lower body would have failed and he would have died,” she said.
“During the surgery they also found a hole in his heart that they were able to repair.
“When we came out of surgery George was taken to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in Brisbane where we spent a month.
“He was doing quite well considering what he went through which was a great relief.
“We also spent some time in PICU in Townsville prior to being transferred to Brisbane and the team were superb.”
Nearly one year on, Mrs Galloway said George is a calm, confident and determined baby.
“Unfortunately, though, you can’t go through something like that and come out the other side completely unscathed, but overall, we have so much gratitude for the life we have with George,” she said.
“George has regular check-ups with the visiting paediatric cardiologist from Brisbane, check-ups with the paediatric doctors and ear, nose and throat specialists at Townsville University Hospital.
“We also meet with a lot of allied health specialists such as speech therapists and occupational therapists
“Our main goal now is to make sure he is meeting his milestones and act if there is a need for any early interventions.”
Mrs Galloway said her family counted their blessing every day that their son is happy and healthy.
“We are so grateful to wonderful staff who work in PICU,” she said.
“It would be a tough job to care for seriously ill children and they do it with such professionalism and care.
“We cannot thank them enough for saving our George.”
Chirpy and bubbly at just five months old, Patrick ‘Patty’ Willis and his parents Daniel and Emma Willis were enjoying work life on a farm outside Georgetown when a run-of-the-mill fever soon turned into two Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) trips and an 82-day stay in hospital.
“Our little fella Patty was born healthy and perfect,” Daniel said.
“One day Emma came down to the shed and said he’d developed a bit of a temperature, so we rang the doctors.
“The next day we took him to Georgetown Health Service, they rang Cairns Hospital who immediately flew him out with RFDS, but he didn’t improve and soon had a few seizures then went into a coma.”
From Cairns, Patty was again on a RFDS plane, this time to Townsville University Hospital where a diagnosis of viral meningitis soon escalated into a diagnosis of meningoencephalitis, a serious neurological condition made up of a combination of meningitis, which attacks the outer covering of the brain, and encephalitis which attacks the inner layers of the brain.
“It really did a number on his brain, the poor fella,” Daniel said.
“It killed the front half of his brain and he’ll never get that back.”
Daniel and his wife Emma spent 82 days in hospital in total, travelling between Townsville and Brisbane before finally moving to Townsville to be closer to the hospital.
“When it first happened, he couldn’t move or swallow so we fed him through a naso-gastric tube,” Daniel said.
“He’s kicking goals now though doing speech therapy, rehabilitation and occupational therapy.
“He’s started to roll over and eat which is really good and the tube is out and he’s receiving all his medication through a peg in his stomach.
“He’s really powering on, he’s a little champion.”
Daniel said he was extremely thankful to staff.
“It’s hard because we don’t know how to thank them enough; they did everything in their power to help and find out what was wrong and looked after us,” Daniel said.
“It’s not easy being a doctor to give any family the diagnosis we got, I certainly couldn’t do it, but we just want to say thank you to everyone.
“We’re so thankful.”
Tomika Read was living life as normal teenagers do, taking advantage of living in North Queensland and spending the day kayaking with friends before she quickly began to lose movement in both sides of her body.
Tomika’s mum Jillian Read said it was a shock diagnosis of transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, that was behind the loss of movement.
“Tomika had been out kayaking with friends and hadn’t noticed anything different,” Jillian said.
“But she came home and had a shower, which is when she started to notice that she had lost movement in her right side and then her left.
“We took her to Tully Hospital and were given painkillers, but things moved so quickly and before we knew it we were in a helicopter being taken to the Townsville University Hospital.”
What began as a fun and enjoyable day soon turned into months of travel between hospitals and ongoing treatment with Tomika defying the odds as she learned to walk again.
“The diagnosis for Tomika was delayed because there is no known cause of the viral infection and doctors were exploring whether it may have been a tick or if she had hit her head,” Jillian said.
“We got really lucky that the doctor organised a blood filtration because that saved her life.
“From there we were flown to Brisbane and were told that it’s unlikely Tomika would ever walk again.
“We have been travelling between home and Brisbane ever since.”
Jillian said Tomika had shown so much bravery in the face of such a terrifying illness.
“Through her sheer determination, Tomika was out of the paediatric intensive care unit within two weeks and she had her tracheostomy out in another two weeks,” Jillian said.
“From there she was in rehab until August and then we went to Cairns with the support of Spinal Life and finally she was able to go home and is doing regular physiotherapy.
“The Mission Beach community has really pulled together to support Tomika since coming home too, which has been a huge help for us.
“She visits the physio for one hour a week, and the local Lions Club purchased walking bars for her and then raised another $4,000 to buy a Pilates reformer.
“Tomika is absolutely dedicated to being able to walk again and her progress has been incredible, the doctors have been amazed by it.”
Jillian said Tomika has ups and downs but overall has been coping pretty well.
“This has been a lifechanging diagnosis for Tomika and the family, so we do still have moments where tensions and emotions are high,” Jillian said.
“Tomika will be on medication every day for the rest of her life to help manage her nerve pain in her spine, but we can’t thank the PICU team enough for their support while Tomika was in their care.
“Their consideration and attitude really made a difference.
“We loved the nurses that styled Tomika’s hair differently every day, and the doctor was extremely considerate with us.
“If he hadn’t picked up her illness when he did, we would not be this far along today so we’re very grateful.”
When 14-year-old Cameron Lochhead was involved in a high-speed accident in April there were several fortuitous events that occurred and, ultimately, saved his life; he was sitting in the rear passenger seat which took the impact, a good Samaritan climbed into the back seat and held his head to keep his airways open and the crash site was just minutes from the local ambulance station.
Cameron’s mum, Belinda, said this series of fortunate event helped save Cameron’s life.
“When the paramedics arrived on scene Cameron was unconscious and critically injured; it was very touch and go,” Belinda said.
“Both of his lungs had collapsed, and the paramedics had to make road-side incisions to re-inflate them.
“Due to the severity of his injuries he was choppered to Townsville University Hospital.
“I met Cameron and the medical team at the helipad and I just lost it; it was very traumatic.”
Cameron was rushed into the emergency department with multiple traumas down the left side of his body and serious injuries to his chest, lungs, and head.
“He was in the resuscitation room for such a long time before being rushed to theatre for emergency surgery where there were three surgical teams who worked consecutively,” Belinda said.
“The accident happened at 9am in the morning and we got to see him when he was out of surgery and taken to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at 8pm that night.”
With multiple fractures from his hip to his foot and pressure on his brain from the head injury the prognosis was bleak.
“On Sunday we were told he probably wouldn’t survive and if he did, he would be on a ventilator and likely be paralysed for the rest of his life,” Belinda said.
“But six days later, on his older brother’s birthday, the breathing tubes were removed and, although groggy, he woke up.
“His brother was over the moon; it was the best birthday present we could have wished for.”
After a 13-day stay in PICU, a further two weeks in the children’s ward, additional surgeries, and a three-month stint at Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane undertaking intensive rehabilitation, Cameron and mum Belinda are glad to be back at home.
“He really missed his dog, Shadow, and his dad and brother of course,” Belinda laughed.
“We still have a long road ahead, but Cameron is doing really well.”
Belinda said she doesn’t think her family could ever thank staff enough.
“The intensive care staff were amazing, they don’t just look after the patient they also provide care for the family,” she said.
“I don’t think I will ever be able to fathom how many hands saved Cameron’s life that day.”
At just 18 months old, little Logan Bourke’s body was busy fighting not one but three viruses before a trip to the emergency department saw him on the fast-track to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
Logan’s mother, Ashleigh, said it was a scary time for her family.
“Logan was fighting a run-of-the-mill cold that normally he would recover from, but while he was sick with that, he got a secondary virus, which led to a staph infection and then pneumonia,” Ashleigh said.
“I’ve never known anyone who has had pneumonia before, so I read a lot about that and it was scary.”
Ashleigh said the saving grace was how quickly the infections were picked up at the hospital.
“On Friday, Logan’s fever kept spiking and he wasn’t eating or drinking, so we called house-call doctor who said to go to the hospital if he gets worse, which he did,” Ashleigh said.
“By Saturday we were at Townsville University Hospital’s emergency department and the doctor noticed that the left side of Logan’s chest wasn’t moving up and down like it should so it was off to get chest x-rays and ultrasounds, then onto the ward to start antibiotics.
“He had oxygen hooked up, a naso-gastric tube for feeding and a central catheter line in his neck as he kept pulling his cannulas out.
“Less than a day later he was sent to the PICU because his body wasn’t responding to antibiotics.”
With the fluid in Logan’s lungs building, surgeons decided to insert two drains into his lungs to help get rid of the fluid.
“It was scary because as a mother you naturally read everything you can about an illness or procedure because you can’t help it, so I read things that I shouldn’t have about the percentage of times a surgery can go wrong,” Ashleigh said.
“The surgeons and staff were great though and there were no complications.
“It’s hard not to be stressed when it’s your child but the staff knew exactly what to do and told me what was happening at every stage so that helped a lot.
“My partner Zac was a tremendous help as well; he looked after our oldest son Finn, our animals, brought fresh clothes to the hospital and held me together every day – especially when Logan underwent general anaesthetic for surgery.”
Ashleigh said she was thankful to staff who had helped bring her boy through.
“The nurses in the PICU were amazing,” Ashleigh said.
“I may not remember names, but I will always remember their faces.
“The amount of love you see them put into their work… they really care for their patients and it felt good to know the person looking after them, saving their life really, cares for them so much.”
Ashleigh said Logan still had a lingering cough, but regular x-rays monitor his chest and he was back to his cheeky self.
“Logan’s back to playing with this older brother Finn, who is nine years old, and is this very strong-hearted, strong-minded kid who was so calm when Logan was in the PICU,” Ashleigh said.
“Logan’s not scared of anything medical since either, he got his vaccinations the other day and was fine.
“I think Logan’s just excited for Christmas – we went to Finn’s end-of-year Christmas carols and Logan knew exactly who Santa was and had this big smile, so it’s going to be a great Christmas.
“The main thing is we’re all healthy and together for Christmas – that’s what counts.”
Everleigh and Briley
Dravat Syndrome, described as ‘rare’, ‘catastrophic’ and ‘life-long’ by the Dravat Syndrome Foundation, is one of the more unknown conditions in our health system; however, since the birth of their gorgeous twins last October, parents Gary and Gurjeet Sandhu are all too familiar with this rare form of epilepsy.
Born 13 October 2020, Everleigh and Briley Sandhu were welcomed into the world at just 27-weeks old and spent their first two months in Townsville University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit followed by a fortnight in the special care nursery when the family thought they had seen the last of intensive care.
“We spent our first Christmas with the twins and our family in the hospital and we came home on 8 February 2021,” Gurjeet said.
“Then one morning in May, Gary went to check on the twins and had them both in his arms when one of the twins had a seizure.
“We’d never seen this happen before so we called the ambulance straight away and they took the them straight to Townsville University Hospital.”
Gurjeet said they had a 4-year-old daughter who had never had seizures so this was new territory for the duo.
“The twins were diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome and were immediately put on medication,” Gurjeet said.
“Same medication, same diagnosis, same everything – you can definitely tell they are twins.”
Dravat Syndrome, also known as severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy, affects one in 15,700 infants and has no known cure just yet.
Since being diagnosed in May, Gurjeet said Everleigh had been admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) four times and Briley had been admitted three times, each admission centred around their seizures.
“We are up and down to the hospital quite a bit,” Gurjeet said.
“We really want to say thank you to the PICU team and especially to Dr Watson; he has seen them since they were babies and always checks in.
“Because of the team they are doing much better now.
“They’ll be on medication for the rest of their life but the seizures are far less frequent now which we are thankful for.”
After spending last Christmas in the hospital, Gurjeet said she was delighted to be spending Christmas with her family in their home.
“We are so excited for Christmas this year,” Gurjeet said.
“We spent last Christmas in hospital but this year we’ll be together, at home, celebrating as a family.”
Chanitha Pang and Hayden Wicks thought that one-month old Kayden’s symptoms were the sign of a common cold when they took him to the local GP only to quickly find out things were more dire than they seemed.
Kayden actually had bronchiolitis, a viral infection of his respiratory tract that blocks the airway making it difficult to breathe.
Chanitha said the routine trip to the GP turned into being airlifted to the Townsville University Hospital (TUH).
“We arrived at the doctor’s surgery in Mackay and he took one look at Kayden and told me to get in my car and take him straight to the emergency department where they would be waiting for us,” she said.
“When we made it to the hospital the doctors there took Kayden and gave him fluids, but he reacted poorly and had a seizure which at first worried me because I have epilepsy.
“The doctors in Mackay gave him a CT scan and then we were told we would likely be flown to Brisbane or Townsville and we ended up at the Townsville University Hospital not long after that.”
Chanitha said Kayden was put on a variety of supports to keep his little body going while they treated his bronchiolitis.
“When we arrived at Townsville Kayden was aspirating and the doctors had him on high-flow oxygen, a drip for his fluids and a feeding tube,” she said.
“I was in shock at everything that was happening but the staff in the paediatric team took their time to really explain everything that was happening.
“I really did think we were going to lose Kayden.”
Kayden’s stay in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) lasted almost a week, with Chanitha staying in Townsville while partner Hayden worked.
“I was here alone because Hayden had to travel back to Mackay to keep working and looking after the other kids, so the support from the paediatric team was really helpful,” she said.
“I have family in Townsville, but they have newborns and toddlers, so I was worried about spreading Kayden’s illness to them.”
The first indication that Kayden had started the road to recovery was taking a bottle for the first time since he had been in hospital.
“The first time Kayden took a bottle in the hospital was the first sign that he was on the road to recovery,” Chanitha said.
“It was such a relief and he took to it really well. From there they started to take him off the high-flow oxygen and eventually the feeding tube and drip as well.
“After we got home Kayden did still have a bit of a cough but that has gone away, and he sleeps really well – when he wants to.
“Now he’s a giggly baby who is absolutely a daddy’s boy and carries around a tea towel as a favourite toy.”
Chanitha said the family were looking forward to Christmas at home after such a stressful time.
“Originally, we had plans to go away for Christmas, but after all of this we’ve decided to keep things quiet at home,” she said.
“We’ll have both families visit and we’ll also go see Pop who lives about an hour away.
“It will be a really nice way to end the year after everything we’ve been through.”
A routine Saturday afternoon at their 14-year-old son’s soccer game turned into a frightening nightmare for Mareeba parents Candice McLaughlin and Paul Fagg when Jacob suffered a cardiac arrest mid-game in August.
Candice said prior to Jacob’s cardiac arrest she had no inclination he was unwell.
“He collapsed on the field and when I checked on him his eyes had rolled into the back of his head, so I said we needed an ambulance,” she said.
“He was taking very intermittent breaths, so Jacob’s dad and I commenced CPR and continued with that for nine minutes until the ambulance arrived.
“When the ambulance arrived, they administered a shock which restarted his heart and he was taken to Mareeba Hospital.”
Paul said Mareeba Hospital stabilised Jacob until a trauma team from Townsville arrived by helicopter to transfer him to Townsville University Hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
“When we got to Townsville the PICU staff were wonderful; they basically said that we weren’t leaving until they knew why he’d had the cardiac arrest,” he said.
“He was stable but very unwell and had also suffered respiratory failure because the blood in his lungs that had built up during the CPR had stopped him from breathing on his own.”
After six days in PICU doctors discovered the artery that supplied blood to the left-hand side of Jacob’s heart was in the wrong place and very narrow.
“This meant his heart couldn’t pump enough blood throughout his body and his heart just couldn’t cope with his rapid teenage growth anymore,” Candice said.
“Once we had the diagnosis, the PICU team was in touch with the Queensland Children’s Hospital to arrange our transfer there for Jacob to have heart surgery to widen the artery.
“The surgery was a success, but it certainly was a huge ordeal that saw us in and out of hospitals for a total of 15 days.”
Paul said Jacob had made a full recovery, but it was a very scary experience for their family.
“We brought our family in to say goodbye to Jacob as we didn’t know what the outcome would be,” he said.
“We didn’t know if he would have brain damage; there are just so many undetermined possibilities when your body has reduced blood supply.”
Paul said he and Candice took comfort in knowing that from the ambulance arrival onwards their son was subject to ‘amazing care by skilled people’.
“You don’t realise the depth of care available in North Queensland,” he said.
“The whole chain of survival for Jacob worked seamlessly and is the reason he is with us today.
“The doctors and nurses were open and honest; they didn’t hold anything back which was good for us.”
Candice said that while Jacob had recovered well, their family still held onto the fear of a second cardiac arrest.
“Generally, Jacob took the whole ordeal in his stride and wears his surgery scar with pride but, as his parents, we do worry,” she said.
“For him it’s about how far he pushes himself, but we do just want him to live his life as a normal kid as much as possible.
“He will require follow-up with a paediatric cardiologist in Cairns every few months but apart from that his specialist has said there are no issues with him returning to soccer when the season begins.”
It’s not every day you can say that Batman helped save your son from a rare disease, yet it’s a sentence the Belonogoff family have said since February when their four-day-old son became seriously unwell.
George’s mum, Carolyn, a doctor at Townsville University Hospital, knew something was wrong when George wouldn’t settle and was breathing heavily.
“My husband and I took George to the emergency department at around 9pm and as soon as we got there, George was taken to the resuscitation bay,” Carolyn said.
“We were greeted by paediatric registrar, Kaitlin, who took bloods and called her boss Dr Anil in from the paediatric intensive care unit.
“George was given antibiotics to cover possible infection, underwent an echocardiogram to rule out cardiac abnormalities, and was then admitted to PICU,” she said.
“When George’s bloods and vitals showed no sign of improvement after the first few hours of treatment, we were informed that the next step would be intubation and sedation to give him some relief and, hopefully, slow the disease process.
“We were told that he might not wake up, so we should see him before he was sedated; this was easily the hardest moment of our lives.”
What happened in the next two weeks not only saved George’s life but cemented him as one rare – and very lucky – little guy.
“After George was intubated, Dr Anil told us he’d been in discussion with a colleague in Brisbane called Professor David Coman who was a metabolic specialist,” Carolyn said.
Transferred to Queensland Children’s Hospital, Carolyn said it was a whirlwind of information for her and her family and a huge scope of life-saving work completed between Townsville and Brisbane.
“When we arrived we were met by the Hawaiian-shirted Professor Coman who explained that the metabolic team had a diagnosis of an organic acidemia, which is when a number of rare genetic conditions in the body can’t clear the breakdown products of protein metabolism,” she said.
“We were told that the prognosis was unclear, but they would have to initiate dialysis immediately to clear the lactate and ammonia build up.
“On thanking Professor Coman, he told us to call him ‘Professor’, ‘David’ or ‘Batman’; we chose Batman.”
‘‘George responded better than expected to treatment and when we met with Batman, he said the team now believed George had a much rarer condition, which if confirmed, would make him the 17th documented case in the world.”
Carbonic Anhydrase VA Deficiency was first described in 2014 and has since been documented in only five articles worldwide. It is a rare genetic condition, where the newborn is deficient in an enzyme necessary for the clearance of metabolic by-products.
“With George now fully recovered, we flew back to Townsville and basically restarted the newborn period with a whole new perspective,” Carolyn said.
“It sounds crazy but Carbonic Anhydrase is the best rare condition he could have because despite the speed bump in his first week of life, he doesn’t require any special medication or treatment and we have a solid plan if he gets sick again.
“He’s now 10 months old and we joke that they must’ve given him some Spiderman serum in PICU, because he just keeps going from strength to strength.”
Carolyn said her family was grateful for the quick-thinking work between teams.
“We could not be more thankful for the incredible work that was undertaken in PICU,” Carolyn said.
“It was an alignment of resources that saved George; from the emergency department team calling Dr Anil so quickly, to Dr Anil knowing Batman who had the perfect set of diagnostic skills and everyone in between.
“It was a horrible circumstance, but the speed and efficiency of the PICU team and their willingness to call for help when they needed it is what saved our little man.”
“I only remember an hour before and then nothing until I woke up.”
Those are the words of 14-year-old Lawrance Hanin who was involved in a frightening car crash at Yabulu earlier this year which saw everything turn on a dime.
The crash involved two cars and four people, with Lawrance in the front seat crushed from both the side and underneath, but he said he’s come leaps and bounds since the incident.
“The night before was pretty normal; I pulled an all-nighter with friends playing games and the next morning we all got up to head to an 18th birthday party for one of my big brother’s friends, we jumped in a car with someone and on the way there we crashed,” Lawrance said.
“I only remember an hour before and then nothing until I woke up.
“I remember my friends Ryan and Rae when I woke up in PICU, they walked in and I said ‘what the hell are you guys doing here’?
“They were more emotional than anything; my dad saw that Rae was trembling and when he walked up to see if she was okay, she collapsed, and he caught her and put her on the day bed.”
Since the accident Lawrance said he has been more motivated than ever to smash through his goals and he has advice for others.
“I’m pretty good now, I’m trying to get as much exercise in as I can,” Lawrance said.
“I’m lifting more weights, I’m getting stronger and I’ve got a few people at the gym who are just as motivated as me to get stronger, which is good.
“My advice to anyone else who has been in that situation is to just keep going; that’s what I did, and I got way better.”
Lawrance’s father, Ilia, said Lawrance’s injuries were extensive but the team rallied to save his son’s life.
“Everybody that needed to be there at that moment for the emergency was there, they didn’t have to call anyone out, that was part of the miracle,” Ilia said.
“When they spoke to us they said he’s alive, we’re doing the best we can to keep him alive and they told us what we were fighting against, which was a lot of internal bleeding, collapsed lungs, a category four spleen injury, which is one less than the worst you can have, split bladder, bruised kidneys, shattered pelvis and a leg swollen from the impact.
“They had to operate on his pelvic bone as soon as possible because the biggest threat was blood clots, so once he was stabilised they flew him on a low-altitude flight to Brisbane and had surgeons take a day off so they could sleep and operate on him on Anzac Day.
“When he came back to Townsville, he was in the children’s ward and was on heavy pain medication for his injuries and nerve pain but the staff here were amazing; they put their heart and soul into making sure he recovered.
“Everybody is just saying it’s a miracle that he’s alright, but the miracle was created by the dedicated staff, it’s a miracle we have staff like that.
“I am so very grateful.”
Ilia said it was hard to put his pride in his son into words.
“The first time they asked him to stand he was struggling to even move his legs, even sitting up was a massive accomplishment because he had to rest for six weeks after his pelvic surgery,” Ilia said.
“The very first time he walked after the incident with a special walking frame the staff asked if he wanted to go back to bed after his walk or go for another lap and he said he wanted to go for another, they said ‘aren’t you in pain?’ and he said ‘I’m in pain lying in bed, I might as well be in pain doing what I want to do’ and that’s the determined attitude he had.
“They had a progress chart on the wall for him but all the progress they set up for him to last weeks on end he managed to do in a couple of weeks, so they scrunched the chart up and threw it away because he was just hitting every goal early.”
Ilia said that while Lawrance still battled issues with walking, standing long-term or sitting long-term, he had hit every goal and was dedicated to hitting many more.
“Lawrance could go to gym, come home to do his chores, and go back to gym – that’s how dedicated he is to staying healthy and strong,” Ilia said.
“There’s many things he can’t do that he used to like running and jumping and playing guitar, so he’s replacing it with something he can do.
“He’s just in the mindset of, ‘I can’t do that? I’ll do this’. That’s where his recovery has just flown.”
“Now he wants to do gym instructions down the track for people who don’t know where to start with gym so he can help motivate others and help them reach their goals.
Ilia said many people had rallied to change his son’s life – both inside and outside the hospital.
“We know that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the staff,” Ilia said.
“Every single staff member, they made a miracle, without them there wouldn’t be a miracle.
“Ryan Catholic College, where Lawrance goes to school, also showed an example of how schools should be towards their kids and parents; without them we would have struggled.
“The whole school was amazing. They kept in touch, supported us every single day with everything we needed, they were there for us and that was very important to us.
“Our family is in Melbourne and they supported us like family.”
When Mount Isa local Cheryl Evans received a call from her husband James Evans Snr that started with, ‘don’t panic’ and ended with, ‘can you meet our son at the hospital’, she knew her day was about to be turned upside down.
For James Jr and his dad, it was a run-of-the-mill motorbike ride until James came off his bike mid-air.
“James came off his motorbike and pushed it away from his body mid-air so he didn’t land on it, but what he did land on was a large, rough section of dirt rocky road that scraped the whole right side of his body,” Cheryl said.
“Rural fire fighters were close by dealing with a grassfire so when they saw his dad turn around in a hurry, they knew something had gone wrong and rushed over to help.
“They put James in the firefighting ute and got on the phone to the ambulance while my husband called me.
“I had no idea what to expect but you never expect the best when you hear the words ‘ambulance’, ‘don’t panic’ and ‘fallen off a motorbike’ in the one sentence.
“They say boys are made to bounce but you can’t help but stress.”
With no major signs of injury other than the generous scrape down James’ right side, the family thought they were in the all clear; however, everything changed at 11pm that night when James started to show signs of internal bleeding.
“The team at Mount Isa Health Service did a CT scan and based on that the Royal Flying Doctor Service immediately flew us out to Townsville University Hospital where we spent a night in the paediatric intensive care unit,” Cheryl said.
“It turns out he had an eleventh rib fracture and a grade four laceration on his kidney – a grade five laceration is the worst you can have, so we knew it wasn’t good.
“He was admitted to hospital on Monday and was on bed rest until Thursday, then we were released on Saturday at about 1pm but by 4pm we were back at the emergency department because James was vomiting and wasn’t eating or drinking.
“Once back in the children’s ward, the doctors identified that it was his strong pain medication so we put him on plain Panadol, we were released the following Monday, and flew home on Tuesday.”
Since his crash, Cheryl said James had recovered in leaps and bounds – and had even been a little bold with his choice of Christmas present.
“He’s out of the hospital but not physically out of the clear so he has to take it easy for three months – no trampoline, no swimming pool, and certainly no motorbike riding,” Cheryl said.
“When James Snr and his sisters arrived in Townsville to come visit us, James asked his dad, ‘while in Townsville can we buy a bigger bike for me?’ and his dad replied, ‘maybe later on in the new year’ but we’ll see about that.
“We’ll assess how he feels in February to see if he can maybe ride his pushbike to school.
“He’s certainly not getting a motorbike for Christmas, that’s for sure.”
It’s a classic story that any parent of teenage boys will all too well – a touch of boredom, a curious mind and suddenly you have it; a recipe for disaster (and a hospital trip).
It was raining in Mackay when thirteen-year-old Kingston Brown turned a quick trip into the backyard to check on his dogs into a trip to the hospital with his mum Leanna.
“While down the backyard checking on his dogs, Kingston saw a small pile of bugs and, as every teenage boy does, thought he would try to set the bugs on fire with the help of some petrol,” Leanna said.
“No one in the house smokes but somehow he got his hands on a lighter – we think from his sister’s room, as she lights candles – and instead of setting the bugs on fire, he set himself on fire.
“He stopped, dropped and rolled thanks to what he’d learned in science class, but it was a huge shock when came into the house screaming, covered in black smoke and missing his clothes.”
Leanna said the silk boxers that Kingston had worn out of the house had rapidly melted off his body and stuck to his legs, burning the skin.
“I immediately called an ambulance and put him in the shower, but I remember looking at him in the shower and his skin was just peeling off,” she said.
Kingston and his mum Leanna were immediately flown from Mackay out to Townsville University Hospital where Kingston spent eight days in the paediatric intensive care unit.
“He's had six surgeries and multiple skin grafts but at the end of the day, he's still got his limbs, he's still got his life and we're just thankful that it wasn't worse,” Leanna said.
“The doctors say he'll make a full recovery after his skin grafts and some of his skin may even heal on its own, so hopefully no more surgeries for us – just a lot of rest and rehabilitation.
“We’re still in the children’s ward now and will likely still be here for Christmas but that’s okay because at least we’re together and we’re as healthy as we can be.”
Leanna said she was forever grateful to the teams who had come together to help her boy.
“All the nurses and doctors have been so good to him,” Leanna said.
“This is unreal this place; other hospitals need to take note.
“Everyone says they hate hospitals but when it's a hospital like this it just makes it easier.”