Fall survivor defies the odds

THERE’S usually nothing spectacular about a teenager walking on a treadmill, catching a ball or being cheeky to his mum.

Except that, just a few months ago, Thomas Graham had an 85 per cent chance of spending the rest of his life in a nursing home.

On July 24, the likeable Seelands teenager fell from his horse, which tripped over a wayward steer at an Ulmarra campdraft event, and suffered a massive head injury with bruising and swelling of the brain.

Put into an induced coma, Tom didn’t open his eyes for two weeks, and when he did, there were no words.

Tom’s dad George told The Daily Examiner yesterday of the fear he felt throughout the ordeal, and of his son’s tenuous road to recovery.

“It scares the living daylights out of you, I tell you,” he said.

“They (medical staff) don’t mince their words when they tell you what you’re facing.”

Tom spent five weeks at the Gold Coast Hospital and then a few weeks as an outpatient in Brisbane.

Before he left the Gold Coast he couldn’t walk, could barely hold up his own neck and was making slow progress on oral communication.

“He has had to learn how to walk and talk,” said a clearly proud dad.

“We took him back to the Gold Coast Hospital and he walked in, said: ‘G’day, how’s it going?’ and they all just stood there and looked at him amazed.

“It’s very satisfying to see him here now.”

George put Tom’s success down to his son’s own determination and the family’s persistence.

“Every day we’d do things with him, like we’d stand him up and make him count until he fell (the family would catch him of course) ... He could do it for a bit longer every day.”

He said Tom was already hitting a golf ball and could hit a cricket ball, so he could even think about sport down the track.

“Maybe not full contact, but he’ll play sport again.”

Grafton Base Hospital physiotherapist Kevin Hansell said it could take two years for Tom to fully recover.

Tom said his left side was not as strong as it used to be, but it was slowly coming along.

Now in Year 9 at Grafton High School, he said he was glad to be back in school for a few days a week. He said he’d go back to campdrafting tomorrow if he could, although he has been warned off contact sports.

“At least for a couple of years anyway,” he said.

Tom, who turned 15 yesterday, said he was surprised and humbled by the level of support he received from the Clarence Valley community.

A major fundraising effort saw several events held when the news hit, with one trivia night at the Grafton District Services Club raising $26,000.

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