At just 23 years old, while studying to be an electrician, my beautiful, warmhearted little brother Sam suffered a massive headache, causing vomiting and shaking. We immediately took him to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a massive arteriovenous malformation (AVM - a tangled blood vessel and nerve growth), in the centre of his brain, which had haemorrhaged. This first haemorrhage caused no major damage but the doctors advised there was nothing they could do, that he would continue to suffer haemorrhages until he died. Not willing to accept that, we researched and found an amazing neurosurgeon in Sydney, Dr Nazih Assaad, who specialised in Sam's condition, and he began treatment a few months later. Unfortunately the AVM grew and life threatening surgery was the only option.
Sadly Sammy(as he’s affectionately known), had further haemorrhages before they could operate and this time the damage was extensive. After facing several medical traumas, he was finally transferred to Sydney, where over three intensive surgeries, Dr Assad removed the AVM and saved his life. Finally his skull (which had been removed to reduce pressure), was replaced and he was transferred back to South Australia.
Sam has been in active rehabilitation and has made amazing progress, wowing everyone with his achievements, more than most thought possible in the timeframe so far. While his therapists acknowledge his massive improvements, sadly the hospital are controlled by budgets and have decided his progress is not fast enough to warrant full time rehabilitation. Mum, Dad and Tess (Sammy's girlfriend who, along with mum, has been beside him every day of his year in hospital) do not want him placed in a nursing home, so are preparing to move him home, but to make this work there are things they are going to need. Firstly transport, a vehicle that can fit Sammy's large wheelchair in the back, this is going to cost between fifty and sixty thousand dollars. Alterations need to be made to accommodate him; the existing bathroom has steps and only a shower over the bath, so th bathroom needs to be completely refitted to be accessible. Ramps, handles and other physical equipment is needed to make it possible for Mum and Tess to help lift and move him, and just get him through day to day life. He will also need long term therapy from Physios, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists etc, to ensure that he does get back on his feet and becomes a positive contributor to the community.
Sam is quick to acknowledge the help he gets, he has fought so hard to live and is truly an inspiration to everyone that meets him. We believe that with help he will be able to live an independent life and continue to grow as the amazing inspiration that he is.
I have posted the full story, with more detail and photos of Sam's story below, if you would like to read more of the information.
Sammy with the left side of his skull removed. Pictured with Tess and our sister Lulu.
Sammy with his prosthetic skull in place.
He is working so hard, this video shows him relearning to walk, you can see in his face both the pain and yet the determination.
This video is Sammy working to regain muscle mass and build strength.
Eighteen months ago at just 23 years old, my little brother Sam got a massive headache that had him vomiting and shaking. He called Mum and, realizing something was very wrong, she immediately took him to the hospital. He was diagnosed with a 9.5cm x 4cm arteriovenous malformation (AVM - a tangled blood vessel and nerve growth, which had unknowingly been there since birth), in his brain, which had haemorrhaged. This first time, it caused no major damage but the doctors told us that there was nothing they could do, that he would continue to suffer haemorrhages until he became a vegetable or died, and he was sent home.
Our family began to research and found an amazing neurosurgeon, Dr Nazih Assaad, from Macquarie Neurosurgery in Sydney and Sammy(as he’s affectionately known), began treatment a few months later. The neurosurgeon initially thought they would try to slowly reduce the AVM before any surgery as surgery was very high risk of death or paralysis. However the AVM continued to grow and so surgery was planned however, a week before in July 2016, the AVM haemorrhaged again.
It was major. Critical, Sam was rushed to Flinders Hospital where they removed his skull to try and reduce swelling from the bleed. In ICCU he was in a coma for a week before getting pneumonia, then had an anaphylactic reaction to the drugs and ended up with Toxic Shock Syndrome whereby all his organs shut down…this was the second time they told us he wouldn’t make it.
At a family gathering (Sammy on the far right), before the major haemmorhage that changed everything.
Sam was on dialysis for a week and then 3 weeks later the day before he was to transfer to Sydney for surgery, he haemorrhaged again. It was devastating, but again he survived and two weeks later they transferred him by air ambulance to Sydney, whereby the amazing, Dr Assaad, operated twice (14 and 9 hours duration consecutively), plus embolization surgery to ensure the AVM was totally removed. A final surgery in December 2016 saw Sam receive a prosthetic skull and return him to Adelaide to start a long road to recovery.
Sammy and Tess after being transferred back to SA once he was stable after the surgeries.
What a fighter, and what a miracle! Sammy is a real trooper and is working so hard to learn to do everything again. He is learning to stand, pull himself up in his chair, walk with help, communicate with hand signals and even manages to joke around. He is desperately trying to communicate with sound and use of his iPad and is quick to acknowledge help and support with his beaming smile.
While his therapists acknowledge his massive improvements, sadly the hospital are controlled by budgets and have decided his progress is not fast enough to warrant full time rehabilitation.
Mum, Dad and Tess (Sammy's girlfriend who, along with mum, has been with him every day during his year in hospital) do not want him placed in a nursing home so my parents are going to take him home with Tess’s help, but to make this work there are things they are going to need. Firstly, a vehicle that can fit Sammy's wheelchair in the back, to transport him…disability taxi’s are very expensive and limiting. Also several alterations need to be made to accommodate him such as bathroom changes - the existing bathroom has steps which make it unmanageable, and other physical equipment is needed to make it possible for Mum and Tess to help lift and move him, and just get him through day to day life. He will also need long term therapy from Physios, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists etc, to ensure that he does get back on his feet and become a positive contributor to the community. Sam has fought so hard to live and is truly an inspiration to everyone that meets him. We believe that with help we will be able to keep him moving forward, so that he can eventually live an independent life and continue to grow as the amazing inspiration that he is.
I have posted some more photos below, to give you some more insight into Sammy. Thanks for reading.
This is me with Sammy earlier this year.
Sammy and Tess.Sammy and Tess before the haemorrhages.
- Brad Mawson
- Luke W
- Denise Whittaker
- Harsha Sagar
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