A Little Sister’s Love
With Sharlene Payn
4pm (AEST) Friday 10 July 2020
On 19th of December 2000 at 6am, the Australian Army rang my parents to inform that Kitt, my eldest brother, who was 20 at the time, was in a horrifying accident that morning. I was sleeping when mum woke me up early in the morning. She was crying hysterically, I knew immediately something horrible had happened, but what? Eventually mum said “Kitt…”
At that instant, I thought he was killed and immediately started crying. Mum went on to explain that Kitt was in the hospital and they didn’t know if he would survive. He had been in a motorbike accident and was in a coma. We left Bowen by 11am, flew to Darwin and the Army took us straight to the hospital in the Intensive Care Unit where Kitt was all bruised and bandaged up and lying with all kinds of tubes coming out of him, attached to machines keeping him alive. I started crying hysterically, I had to leave as it was too unbearable for me.
From when I woke up and saw Mum broken to pieces and dad helpless, the whole morning had been in slow motion and I just wanted to be with Kitt, my big brother who always protected me, and find out it was all just a bad dream but instead, it wasn’t. I started crying again. I walked up to my big brother, my best friend, who has always been my rock and so strong for the family, suddenly vulnerable and powerless fighting for his life in a coma.
The doctors prepared us for the worst, only time would tell whether he would be able to survive this and how serious the damages to his brain would be. If he did survive this, it would be likely he might not remember us nor be able to move. I waited helplessly for nearly two weeks hoping he would be the strong man I knew him to be and fight through this, he has so much to live for. To everyone’s amazement, he continued to fight on day after day and slowly grew stronger. Christmas came and went. At 12am on New Year’s eve, mum went to the hospital early and dad stayed at the hotel with me. I saw him falling apart because he thought he had lost his son and that he wasn’t coming back to us as the Kitt we knew. This made me lose it too. I walked over and cuddled him tightly as his body shook from his tears.
On New Year’s at 12am, a nurse popped a party popper and this was the first time I saw Kitt open his eyes, still heavily sedated. He was waking up. He would open his eyes a few times and in January 2001, he was awake again so we went on as usual and chatted to him. Dad signed’ I love you’ and Kitt managed to move two of his middle fingers and sign ‘I love you’ back to him, we all knew at this moment that he remembered us. Kitt had tears rolling down from his eyes – he was starting to be aware of what had happened.
At one stage when he had gained more and more movement, Dad gave him a round lolly on a stick to suck on. He opened his mouth but when the nurses tried to take it out after we had left, he refused to let them. It took them 10 minutes to get it out of his mouth – I think he liked that lolly! As he continued to wake up and be more aware of what was happening, he was still unable to talk properly as that part of his brain was damaged. However, he was able to sign a bit which was more than amazing.
Sometimes the nurses would sit him up and I’d sit opposite him and annoy him by chatting about random things an 11-year-old would talk about, and constantly try and make him comfortable. This irritated him, his little sister wouldn’t leave him alone and our parents would just sit back and let me do as I wanted because it was encouraging him to use his brain to communicate in Sign Language. That was making him stronger whether he liked it or not. Whenever the doctors and nurses talked to him, he would interpret for me.
He was still unable to speak in the early days. He had to sign to my parents who would interpret for him or he would need to write down what he wanted to say. We were also warned he might never walk again but he refused to accept it and attempted to get up and go to the toilet even before he had learnt how to walk again. Kitt is definitely my brother alright, he’s stubborn, like me. He kept trying to get up through the night when no one was around to watch him and had falls, so after a few nights of being such a little rebel, the nurses decided to put his mattress on the floor so it would be even harder for him to get up and lower his risks of falling over and hitting his head. That didn’t stop him.
He’s walking around now. He will even chase anyone that annoys him enough. I know because I’ve tested him. He now has a wonderful wife and four kids, all teenagers. The nurses thought he was a pain; now there’s a few teenage mini-Kitts out there. Needless to say, my big brother is still around to protect me. I love him.