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Will Cookesley's Story

Tue 15.01.19

Will worked at Hacer Group in the Estimating Department from May 2014 until January 2016. Will was a fit, ambitious, hardworking, happy and successful guy, passionate about downhill mountain bike riding and much-loved by his family and friends.

In January 2016 Will was in a tragic accident when he fell off a 5-meter high balcony and landed on his head, resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury. He spent 3 weeks in ICU at The Alfred Hospital on a ventilator in a coma, fighting for his life, followed by another 9 months in a minimally conscious state on the neurological ward. He required immediate surgery to relieve the swelling on his brain, where surgeons removed his skull and attempted to repair numerous facial and head fractures he also suffered.

The doctors gave him a 50/50 chance of survival. 

Will also broke his wrist and pelvis, and his neck was kept in a brace for months. He developed a pressure injury which was so severe it resulted in osteomyelitis, an infection which spread to the bone. The severity of the wound and the countless operations further inhibited his entire recovery. In addition, the impact of his fall shattered the bones in his face and the bone segments were so small he required intricate surgery to repair his face.  A small gap was left in the deepest part of his nasal cavity where cerebral spinal fluid leaked and came out through his nose. This can cause ventriculitis (an infection of the ventricles in the brain) which also threatened his life. The surgery Will endured was so invasive he was readmitted to ICU countless times and his family were frequently told that it could be the end of the road for him. Will also lost total vision in his right eye and 60% of his vision in his left eye.

Following his skull replacement in July 2016 Will slowly began to emerge. A blink of his eye, a yawn, a sneeze, a slight squeeze of the hand. His family sat by his bedside every single day hoping for their prayers to be answered.

In total, Will had 12 surgeries, 8 blood transfusions, 6 lumbar punctures, over 6 months in casts on his hands and legs, and 22 months of hospitalised care.

In late August 2016, Will was transitioned to the Acquired Brain Injury Unit to continue care and begin his recovery. His family were told he may remain in a vegetative state and to expect he may not be able to talk, eat, or drink. Over the next few months Will continued to make tiny improvements and one day, 12 months after his accident, Will emerged from his coma. He knew who his family were. He began to smile and laugh, and he hugged his mum when she arrived on the ward. He continued to recover slowly, working tirelessly with painful, arduous therapy.

Will made leaps and bounds in his recovery, beyond what anyone could ever have imagined. Over a process of 8 months in the inpatient ABI unit, he finally regained the ability to eat, drink and most importantly talk, and he knew who those around him were. After 10 months of intensive physiotherapy Will regained his balance, painful months of casting straightened his legs and he took his first steps, before managing to walk unaided.

In mid-2017 Will moved to a Transitional Living Service. By the start of 2018 Will moved out of TLS to live independently with assisted daily care. This was a significant transition which provided him with a huge sense of achievement, freedom and improved quality of life.

Will is a constant source of inspiration and reminder to us all to not take a day for granted and to be grateful for what our bodies and minds are capable of. It has been an absolute joy following Will’s improvement over the past year and we are so excited to see what 2019 will bring for him.

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