‘He is incredible’: Inspiring journey back from injury
It was the simple greeting Steven Ball uttered from his hospital bed that let wife Kate know he was “making his way back” to her and their young family.
Kate had been by Steven’s side since an accident at their Biloela home on June 29 last year left him with life-threatening injuries.
Steven was trimming a tree when the branch he was standing on broke, sending him crashing to the ground, his head taking the full impact of the fall.
He was rushed to Royal Brisbane, where he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. Due to the increased swelling on his brain, the left side of Steven’s skull had to be removed.
Kate said the initial prognosis was devastating.
“They said if he was to wake, he would most likely have severe disabilities, and I would have to decide whether he would want to live that sort of life,” she said.
“I was numb, I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t talk. I felt my whole heart rip to pieces.”
Kate was allowed into the ICU to see Steven for 20 minutes when she arrived at Royal Brisbane hours after the accident.
Her stepfather drove her to Brisbane because there were no flights available that day due to COVID.
COVID also meant her visiting hours were limited.
“I spent every day, every moment I was allowed by his side,” she said.
During the second wave of COVID in August, Kate was unable to visit for five days.
She sat distraught in the apartment she had rented across the road, describing herself as a “total mess”.
“I fought to get back in. On the sixth day they let me visit for two hours,” Kate said.
“I walked in and he greeted me with ‘Hello’. I almost fell over and cried with happiness.
“It was one of the best days of my life, and he’s been moving mountains ever since.”
Steven was in the Royal Brisbane for three months, and continued rehabilitation at Brighton Brain Injury Service for another two months before returning home in early November.
Kate said she would never forget how it felt to drive back into their hometown together.
“I was adamant I wasn’t coming home without him,” she said.
“He was mentally declining whilst in rehabilitation and I made the decision to take him home to his family, children and friends, in a familiar environment and continue therapy in Biloela.
“This has been the best decision. He has thrived from this; just doing normal daily life has had enormous benefits.”
It has been an incredible journey but there is still a long road ahead for Steven.
“His recovery is going well. We continue to see improvements daily,” Kate said.
“We are very determined, and he works very hard. We have therapy sessions most days, which include speech therapy, physiotherapy, regular physical training sessions, psychology and some help with other daily activities such as cooking, doing puzzles, crosswords which stimulate brain activity.”
Kate said Steven’s biggest struggles now were with his speech and his recall.
“Unfortunately, there is a lot he doesn’t remember from his past, major life events, and short-term memory loss is also an issue at the moment.
“He remembers people very well, therefore I believe he has memories stored in there somewhere to have that emotional attachment that he has with certain people.”
Kate said she knew Steven would never give up.
“His love for me and the kids are what makes him so strong. I knew he would fight for us,” she said.
“He is incredible, a man of many talents and always giving a hand when needed. If you ever needed something done you could always rely on ‘Bally’.”
Kate herself had drawn strength from family and friends and the amazing community of Biloela, which had rallied around them in their time of need.
“One of the many benefits of coming from a small town is that when someone is hurt or suffering, we all get together and reach out,” she said.
“It has been incredibly overwhelming, but we truly appreciate every single message, call, visit, event, fundraiser, the list goes on.”
Kate said this emotional and harrowing experience had made her appreciate the power of positivity and realise that love does heal.
“Life can be taken from us so quickly, in a matter of seconds,” she said.
“We need to stop, slow down and remember all the wonderful things life has to offer. Be grateful for the simple things in life.
“Right now, we just take one day at a time. We are still living the unknown and we don’t know how far Steven will come with his recovery and where this may take us.
“But know, we are very grateful for life, that we get to wake up every day and we are breathing.”