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Daddy’s In A Coma

by Hugh Joughin

“There’s been a serious accident”.

It’s the type of telephone call no family member wants to ever receive. But the Bradley* family did indeed get such a call on a Monday in September 2002.

Andrew, straight A double degree student, Chief Executive Officer, Company Manager, Director, published writer, public speaker, Father, Husband, Son, loved family member. Young, fit, successful, wealthy, popular, and highly ambitious.

This Monday started just like any other for Andrew. Up early to catch that flight to Wellington, the start of the three days a week he spent there on business.

The day was typically busy, but no problem to a guy who was used to racking up 70-80 hours a week at the office. There have been T.V. documentaries made about guys like Andrew.

The arrival of children in Andrew’s life had happened earlier than he had planned, as his wife became pregnant straight after their wedding. However, the children obviously had a profound effect on him.

With a young family now on the scene, this high flying career man had made a conscious decision to reduce his hours at work, so he could spend more time with his wife and kids.

 For a working man this decision is often easy to make, but (depending on their employer) nigh on impossible to implement. As with most other challenges in his life up until then, he managed it with applomb without jeopardising his career.

 And now this. One of the biggest challenges anyone is ever likely to come across.

On that particular Monday in September, Andrew ended his working day in Wellington Hospital in a coma, and on life support. A routine jog around the central city with a coleague, was cut short by a big green Wellington bus.

Also cut short was his parents holiday in Europe, who rushed home to be at his bedside. He was critical and hanging on to life by a thread. After 10 days, the medical staff suggested to the family that the life support system be turned off. Andrew’s father, an experienced medical doctor, refused to sign the papers.

Andrew’s determination and drive began to make an appearance. Defying his condition and situation, he started to improve. After three weeks he was well enough to transfer to Auckland Hospital, a homecoming of sorts. He was certainly not out of the woods yet however.

Each day he kept on improving though, and after a further 16 days he came out of the coma, and was able to leave hospital (albeit in a wheelchair). He couldn’t read, write or talk, and had lost most of the mental faculties we all take for granted every day.

Next was 4 ½ months in Cavits, a south Auckland rehabilitation unit for cases of sever brain injury. Once again, progress was slow but steady. Each day brought new skills. Basically, he had to “start again” at 32 years of age. Thanks to ACC, and a mortgage free home, at least his financial situation was alright.

Meanwhile, his previously stable family life was starting to unravel. His wife found another man, and ended up having another child to this man. The most frustrating thing for Andrew of course, was that he couldn’t “talk through” what was going on with his family. If only he could have talked to his wife about the instant removal of sex, intimacy, conversation and conflict that is standard fare for any relationship.

With Andrew knowing nothing of his wife’s other life, they moved as a family to Christchurch at the beginning of this year, so she could be near her family (the new man was also from Christchurch). It was then that the full story came out, partly because Andrew could now verbally confront his wife as a result of his increased language capabilities.

They now have a fairly amicable arrangement, and Andrew has plenty of contact with his kids, who live just down the road with Mum (the new partner didn’t want anything to do with her after the child was born). He is now able to work four hours a day Monday to Friday, and, with recreation interests, being a Dad, and regular speech therapy, his weeks are certainly very busy again.

He wants more though. More improvement in his condition, more involvement with his kids, more contact with the world. There’s a chance that in a couple of years from now, he will be back to where he was prior to the accident. If his determination is anything to go by, I’d say this gutsy father of two is capable of absolutely anything.

*names have been changed

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