It took all the concentration he could muster, but the first words Sam Farnsworth chose to “type” with his eyes since being left a quadriplegic in a car accident, was; “I love you Mum”.
The 11-year-old was travelling home from school with his twin brother, when the car his mum was driving was hit head-on by another vehicle.
His dad, Neil, was among the first on the scene on February 13, and he pulled the body of his lifeless boy from the wreck on Point Leo Rd in Red Hill.
After being resuscitated at the road side, Sam was flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital.
His twin, Luke, suffered sprained ankles and bruising in the crash. His mum, Lisa, still has her legs in moon boots after shattering her ankles.
With his injured family spread across three hospitals, Mr Farnsworth was told by RCH Director of Trauma Services, Associate Professor Warwick Teague that Sam may not survive.
If he did, it was unclear if the brain damage was too severe and he would be left “locked in” his own body.
The grade six student’s spinal cord had been dramatically stretched by the force of the collision, severing all movement from below his nose. The lap-sash seat belt came across Sam’s neck during the impact of the crash.
“It wasn’t clear at the start if he was brain dead, and if this was a life worth recovering to,” Associate Prof Teague said. “Once we started getting some evidence of movement, and that there was life behind the eyes, Sam has been wonderfully progressive.”
Three months on, including nine weeks in intensive care, it has been a steady mission by the allied health, medical and nursing teams to harness Sam’s potential.
“I used to wish a lot for him, but now I just want him to talk,” Mr Farnsworth said.
“We keep telling him we want better for you than this, you want better than this for yourself, so you need to keep trying.”
Sam now mouths “thank you” and “bye”. He can squeeze his right hand and lift his left foot. He uses eye-tracking technology to say single words via a computer.
“Sam has these little pockets of movement that we don’t know if that’s going to be the beginning of more movement,” Associate Prof Teague said. “We will keep providing therapy to keep getting out of him whatever we can.
“Sam has shown us that he will take any opportunity to show progress and he’ll give it a go.”
Luckily for the family of seven, as they continue nursing their own physical and emotional wounds, they draw strength from Sam and the fact he rarely stops smiling.
“The resilience, strength and determination he has shown post accident is something I didn’t know he had,” Mrs Farnsworth said.
Words by Brigid O’Connell (Herald Sun), photos by Tony Gough