When Sally Heath’s 18-year-old son Jordan woke in the early hours of June 5 with severe pain between his shoulder blades, he asked to see a doctor.
The Proserpine mum immediately felt something was seriously wrong.
Like most young men, Jordan was not one to seek medical attention.
What unfolded was worse than she could ever have imagined as she watched her youngest child and only son deteriorate rapidly.
“We took Jordan to Proserpine hospital, and there he was slowly losing feeling in his right side,” Sally said.
“Proserpine transferred us through to Mackay by ambulance and by the time we got there his whole right side was paralysed.
“They triaged him in the Emergency Department (ED) and transferred him straight to ICU (Intensive Care Unit).
“By that afternoon he had no feeling from his throat down; he was completely paralysed.
“Jordan does not remember.
“The last thing he remembers was leaving Proserpine Hospital in the ambulance.
“He lost use of all the muscles in his chest so he couldn’t cough up secretions, so basically he was choking.
“Jordan had to be intubated and put in a medically induced coma.”
It was a scary and overwhelming time for Sally and her family, and she was still days away from finding out what was wrong.
“Doctors were still diagnosing,” Sally said.
“They ran numerous amounts of tests.
“While he was in ICU he developed full-blown pneumonia – he had a 40.1-degree fever which he was fighting, then his right lung collapsed.
“There were so many medical staff, specialists and everybody looking after him and working on a diagnosis, and after seven to ten days they said it was acute transverse myelitis.
“It’s caused by an underlying virus from the flu.
“They did tell me that because he was so very, very sick, I should expect that he’s not going to make it.
“It’s not something I would wish for anybody to go through.”
Jordan remained in a coma for another ten days, undergoing treatment with antibiotics.
He went on to spend more than a month in ICU, another two and a half weeks in the Medical F2 ward, and then another month undergoing rehab in Townville.
He was finally able to return home on September 2, almost three months after he was admitted to hospital.
While he still has a long road ahead to regain muscle (he lost 29kg of muscle during his illness) and dexterity, the future is bright, and as Sally explains ‘we just take it one day at a time and every day is a blessing’.
But there was an important task to take care of when they visited Mackay recently for a regular rehab appointment.
“We wanted to say thank you,” Sally said.
“The people in ICU and Medical (F2) ward, and the wardies, Hannah (Hillman) and Jino (Porinchu) in rehab; it’s like his second family and he wanted to thank each and every one involved in his recovery,” Sally said.
“It felt like home; they were so supportive to me as well.
“They made me coffee, I cried on their shoulders; it was just amazing.
“‘Thanks’ can never be enough; they truly are amazing people.
“What they do day-in and day-out; I am so grateful to them.
“Without them I wouldn’t have my son.”