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Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
Knights players Kurt Gidley and James McManus
visited St Columban s Mayfield to talk about safety
around trains. They are pictured with Ivy Griffin,
Finlay Doyle and Tommy Dao.
Terry O Brien, Paul Maguire, Catherine O Brien and
blacksmith- sculptor Will Maguire at the opening of Will s
exhibition, "Iron with a J".
CatholicCare Taree led a Hat Day walk to promote
awareness of good mental health and to reduce the
stigma that can be associated with mental illness.
Bishop Bill blesses graduates of the Tenison Woods
Education Centre Christian Formation Course.
SEASONS OF GRACE
By TRISH BOGAN
Saturday 6 August 2011 is firmly
carved into the minds of Nicholas
Kennedy, Mum Julie, step Dad Peter
and sister Emily. Nicholas was driving to help
a friend when he was involved in a horrific
car accident; their lives were instantly
altered in ways they could never imagine.
Nick was 17, a Year 11 student at St Mary's
Campus, All Saints College, Maitland. The
accident occurred just one hundred metres
from his home at Raymond Terrace.
Nick was airlifted to the Intensive Care Unit
at John Hunter Hospital, where he remained
in a coma for 27 days. The accident caused
a compound fracture of Nick's lower right
leg, a deep gash on the back of his left
leg, broken ribs, torn spleen, severed aorta,
collapsed lung and a tear in his liver.
News spread quickly. Julie's spontaneous
instinct was to pray; this was all she could
do to help her son survive his appalling
injuries. She pleaded with God to spare her
son. Support from Nick's family, his many
friends and football team, parishioners, staff
and students from St Brigid's, St Peter's and
St Mary's was unbelievable, with fundraisers
and special prayer services. Within a
short time, a huge groundswell of prayers
was being offered for Nick's survival and
Peter wrote a diary of Nick's hospitalisation,
a distressing account chronicling his injuries
and describing every one of those gruelling
and complex days. There were myriad twists
and turns in Nick's tortuous recovery.
He underwent complicated emergency heart
surgery later that day to repair his aorta.
Due to the extreme delicacy of the surgery,
his vocal cord was paralysed.
Four days later and still in the coma, Nick
suffered a stroke which left him without
movement in his left arm or leg. During a
scan, a previously undiscovered hole in
Nick's heart was found. Everyone is born
with this hole, but about 40% remain open.
Nick was among those. The clot travelled
from the left leg through Nick's heart and
into the brain, causing the stroke.
A week later his lung collapsed and he
contracted pneumonia. Then he was
urgently returned to theatre to drain fluid
from around his heart. A tracheotomy
addressed major breathing difficulties.
Though Nick often teetered between life and
death he says, "I was never going to die;
there was no way I was giving in." Maybe it
was God who gave him that strength of mind
and the pure grit to survive, and of course,
the prayers of hundreds of supporters,
friends and strangers alike.
Nick remembers none of this; he was kept
sedated to allow his body to recover without
movement and further damage. But he
does clearly recall waking up, "I knew who
everyone was, I knew where I was. I even
remembered my dog's name. The only thing
I couldn't remember was the accident." You
can imagine his family's utter joy and relief.
But complications punctuated Nick's
recovery. He remained on oxygen for 41
days, was tube fed through his nose then via
a 'peg' through his navel into his stomach.
He was unable to speak, communicating
by writing. He could not swallow, eat or
drink, but eventually started with pureed
food on day 60. Finally, he was able to
learn to walk again through physiotherapy
and hydrotherapy. "The highlight of my stay
in hospital was going to hydro, it became
While in hospital, Nick admitted to praying
at night while he was awake for long hours.
"A lot of days I would have little tests to
determine my eating and swallowing, to
shower, to walk, move my arm. I know I'm
not the best Catholic or Christian, but I
would sit there for an hour or two and talk
to God; I really needed him to give me the
strength to help get me out of hospital."
Incredibly, Julie remained as calm as
possible during this entire ordeal. "I handed
everything over to God, left it all in his hands.
I never said goodbye to Nick, even when
they told me I should. In my heart I knew
he wouldn't die." Julie believes totally in the
power of prayer, "It is a miracle."
Monday 14 November marked the beginning
of Nick's 'new' life with his return home. In
all, he was hospitalised for a staggering 100
days. "Mum and Pete counted the first 33
days, then I took over."
He was 17 kilos lighter and fragile in body
and mind, but determined to get his life
back. In six months, Nick underwent 13
operations; including a successful ground-
breaking procedure to repair his paralysed
vocal cord. He is now able to speak and
be heard. Also, the hole in his heart was
repaired. He regained his driver's licence.
He celebrated his 18th birthday, though
unable to eat or drink! Nick admits that the
accident changed him --- eventually. "When I
got out of hospital, I did all the same stupid
things." It was only after he returned to
school that he knew he had to change. "I
stopped being stupid." For a while, Nick was
angry with his life, then realised, "I needed
to lose the attitude, to stop hating the world."
Nick's treatment has been intense. Speech
therapy, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and
counselling continue. He attempted to
return to Year 12 at St Mary's this year, but
it proved too difficult, so he is considering
TAFE options. Part time work at McDonalds
helps socially, but is frustrating; he is slower
and tires easily.
One of Nick's passions throughout his life
was sport; he enjoyed and played many, but
particularly loved rugby league. "The hardest
thing is missing my footy every day." It may
take five years before he can play again, but
with his willpower, he will achieve his goal.
Nick is an honest young man. "I've been
given a second chance. I have to admit I
used to be a complete idiot on the road; my
accident was a wake-up call. I want to get
out there and make a difference as a youth
worker or counsellor. I want to start going
into schools, hospitals, youth groups. I know
what it feels like, I've been in that position
and it does get better."
Julie's miracle son continues to recuperate.
Nick has changed, he is calmer and happier.
He is living proof of the power of prayer.
Nick with his prized NSW
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