Help us help Will Cookesley

Will's story beings on January 1st 2016. He was 27 years old, he had a high powered job in a construction company and he had his whole life ahead of him. He was in a tragic accident when he fell off a 5m balcony and landed on his head. It resulted in a severe, axonal, diffuse, traumatic brain injury. He spent 3 weeks in ICU on a ventilator in a coma, fighting for his life at The Alfred Hospital. Then a subsequent 9 months in a minimally conscious state on the neurological ward.  Will endured hardship after hardship.  He required immediate surgery to release the swelling of his brain, where they removed the skull. At the same time they attempted to repair the numerous facial and head fractures which took over 8 hours. At the end of the surgery, they gave him a 50/50 chance of survival.  Will also broke his wrist and pelvis, and his neck was kept in a brace for months. His neck was in a brace because the base of the skull was shattered and the brace relieved pressure on the skull. Will developed a pressure injury and it was so severe that he developed osteomyelitis, which is where an infection spreads to the bone. The severity of the wound and the countless operations inhibited his entire recovery.  In addition to this, the impact of the fall shattered the bones in his face, the segments of bone were so small that he required intricate surgery to try and repair his face. As a result of this, it left a small gap in deepest part of his nasal cavity where Cerebral Spinal Fluid dripped through the gap and came out of his nose, this can cause ventriculitis which also almost killed Will. The surgery was so invasive that Will was readmitted into ICU countless times and we were often told that this could be the end. In addition to all of these battles Will endured many infections, many readmissions into ICU, many other surgeries,  and  invasive procedures to give him his chance at life. Will has also lost all of his vision in his right eye and 60% of his vision in his left eye.

In total Will has had:
12 surgeries
8 blood transfusions
65 scans
6 lumbar punctures
Over 6 months of castsing of the hands and leg
Multiple botox injections
22 months of hospitalised care

Finally on July 25th 2016, Will had his skull replaced. His bone was so shattered that his cranioplasty involved titanium mesh also.

Will rallied. We were granted our miracle we had prayed and wished for. 

Painfully, slowly, he began to emerge. A blink of his eye, a yawn, a sneeze, a slight squeeze of the hand. We were told sometimes, just sometimes, there is improvement once the skull bone is replaced.

Our family literally sat by his bedside every single day. We had slept next to him in ICU and maintained a bedside vigil all day every single day and we have continued to do so even to this date, 22 months later.

On August 25th 2016, Will had finally fought every acute illness that could have been dealt to him and he was well enough to transition to the Acquired Brain Injury unit (ABI) as part of The Alfred hospital, to continue his care and to begin his recovery. We were told he could remain in vegetative state, we were told to expect he mightn’t be able to talk, or eat, or drink. We were told his brain was so severely damaged that he mightn't even have process of thought, let alone remember who anyone was.

Over the next few months Will continued to make tiny advancements, and it wasn’t until after 12 months did Will emerge from his coma. He knew who the family were. He began to smile and then to laugh. He began to hug his mum when she arrived on the ward. He continued to recover, working tirelessly with painful, arduous therapy. We went through the period of the brain sleeping to repair itself. Then the time to passively encourage the brain to work, and then stimulating the brain to wake the neurons up and encourage them to discover new pathways. Both Will and his family worked tirelessly to save his life.

Since then he made leaps and bounds beyond what anyone could ever have imagined he was capable of.  Over a process of 8 months at the inpatient ABI unit, Will could finally, eat, and drink and most importantly he could talk, and he knew who who we all were. After 10 months of gruelling physiotherapy Will regained his balance, painful months of casting on his legs straightened his legs and he then took his first steps, and then managed to walk unaided. During his rehabilitation at ABI will suffered from spacticity contractures which is where the tendons and joints curl up and cannot be straightened. He suffered these constractures in his leg and most significantly his fingers on both hands. This has required intensive hand therapy to enable the use of this hands which will need to be ongoing.

On July 25th 2017 he moved to the Transitional Living Services (TLS) as part of The Caulfield Hospital. Here he has lived in a supported and structured environment with the 24/7 assistance of carers and allied health assistants. Will has been involved in many “errorless learning” tasks. For example his morning routine; he has to wake up, and then shower, dress himself, prepare and eat his breakfast. This has taken 5 months of intense, repetitiveness to retrain his brain. Will requires this kind of care to continue to improve and have the chance of an independent future. 

Will was a fit, healthy, ambitious, hardworking, happy, successful bloke. He was a passionate downhill mountain bike rider, a popular friend and a much loved son and brother to his two sisters. Our wish is for Will to live his life to the best of his ability as he continues to achieve his goals. We are positive and confident he will continue to improve but we need your help.

Will's recovery has made an amazing example of our Public Health System and the support cannot end now.

As most of you would have read on our online petition we are facing up to a year with no funding. Please click on the above link and read our Government battle and sign our petition. Here you can read one reason as to why we so desperately need funds for Will.

How funds would be used:

1. Interim accommodation for Will in a Supported Living environment. This accommodation will provide the supervision, prompting and assistance Will requires for his next transition.

2. The purchase of a Supported Living Apartment as part of a complex for like-minded individuals

3. Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Neuropsychologists until NDIS application is approved

4. Funding for care assistance

5. Funding assistance for opthamology and podiatry appointments

6. Intensive hand therapy and other appointments necessary to improve mobility 

Other areas funds would go towards:

1. Future Stem Cell Replacement Therapy if it becomes available in Australia

2. Any additional therapies and appointments engaged to help improve Will's quality of life

Watch our feature on Channel 10 news on the below link...

"The first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight."
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Luci Cookesley 
Malvern VIC
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