Tim was born and raised in Rockhampton with his brother, sister and parents. He attended boarding school at Downlands in Toowoomba and then went on to study Commerce at UQ in Brisbane. During his last year at University, Tim had been sharing a unit with his sister Carolyn; she had just moved to Sydney to start a new job when her brother Tim was seriously injured.
“It is a bit of a mystery; Tim was found in his bedroom at about 6am in the morning, I think he was snoring or making weird noise and his friends, who had stayed over the night before found him. He was unconscious and an ambulance was called…” Jenny, Tim’s Mum
At some point during the night, 23-year-old Tim had suffered an impact to the left side of his head, causing a subdural hemorrhage. Surgeons carried out craniotomy surgery later that day. Further surgery was required a few days later as Tim’s condition deteriorated.
Tim remained in a coma during April. Doctors identified extensive global brain damage as the result of a diffuse atonal injury, which is caused by an impact. The major injuries were to the left side of Tim’s brain, with probable damage to the language centres, mobility and right side dexterity. Tim also had hypoxia from lack of oxygen.
“We were still in Rockhampton and we got this awful phone call and shot down to Brisbane. Tim was in a coma and being prepared for surgery. He underwent two separate brain operations during that week. We were told to expect he would never walk, never talk, never recognize us. We were advised not to continue Tim’s life, which we refused to consider.”
In 2004, there was minimal understanding about the plasticity of the brain and rehabilitation was limited to the shorter term by the belief that the brain cannot recover long term. The family were told that 90% of Tim’s recovery would happen in the first six months. As Tim seemed barely conscious at the six-month mark, the family rallied around him to help him with his progress. His parents sold the house in Rockhampton and moved down to Brisbane, his sister Carolyn returned from Sydney and his brother moved home from London to help Tim on his journey.
“We sold the house and did the therapy and I think now, if we hadn’t done that, that Tim would be upside down in a hospital bed somewhere. But it was with pure stubbornness that we got here, because the hospital just didn’t believe in it.”
After some persistence, Tim was moved from the hospital in the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit (BIRU) in South Brisbane. Tim’s family helped him, fueled by the belief that he had the potential to improve for the rest of his life. After rehabilitation, there were two options; for Tim to move into his parents’ house, which was not fully accessible or for Tim to go into a nursing home.
“There’s no incentive in a place like that for a young person. Young people need other young people around them. I was so silly, I thought it was going to be a nursing home for people like Tim, and then someone said no it’ll be old people and dementia patients. It was such a shock.”
It was a dreadful time for the family, who were trying to find options for Tim and all the time with threat of a nursing homes hanging over their heads. Jenny considered taking Tim up to Rockhampton but there were better services, access to therapies and specialists in Brisbane. His parents ended up renting a house in Brisbane where they could get physios and speech therapists, and they did a lot of music therapy and hydrotherapy. Friends of the family would come and help Tim to go walking. But it wasn’t Tim’s own place, it wasn’t his choice. He had no real say in what was going on, it was all being done TO him.
Jenny started to investigate what alternatives existed for Tim and in 2005, she discovered Youngcare was building at Sinnamon Park, the first disability accessible apartments of their kind. Tim was offered an apartment when they were finished in 2007 and at 27 years of age, Tim finally had some of his independence back again.
“Tim had been at boarding school and away for so long as a student that he was used to living independently with his he really wanted his own place.”
After years of calling Sinnamon Park home, Tim was ready to take the next step in his independence and move into an inner-city apartment. To help make his house a home, Youngcare gave Tim a Home Support Grant for some essential items, like his fridge and couch. Youngcare have never left Tim’s side, and his family say he could never have got through without them.
It’s the little things that help Tim feel independent in his home, like being able to access the fridge. Because he has limited function in his right side, he needed a fridge with the capability to be opened from the left-hand side. This will give him access to the most basic things like food and water when he is on his own.
Now Tim has his own carers, funded by the NDIS he has the independence and choice over who provides his care, where he goes, what he does and who he spends his time with.
“Tim wanted to be in the city and now look at him! Youngcare changed a nation, they really did. When this happened to Tim, there was nothing. We just sold everything and rented. That was the option, that or a nursing home.”
To the people who have supported Youngcare and made this possible, Jenny and Tim have a message of thanks.