Jill Gillam will never forget the moment of sheer terror when the crowd shouted, “Someone’s gone.”
The mother was watching her seven-year-old boy, Rowan, on a motocross track outside Brisbane when onlookers suddenly let out a collective, horrified gasp.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Starlight helped Rowan’s dream come true
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Her eyes immediately scanned the trail, desperately trying to spot her little boy.
But he was nowhere to be found.
Running towards where a small crowd had formed, the terrified mother saw her son lying unconscious in a dry creek bed.
“He was thrown 15m, hit the trees and landed on his head… he was knocked unconscious,” the Queensland mum told 7Life.
Ambulances quickly filled the parking lot as Rowan was placed in a coma and rushed to hospital.
The little boy was rushed into surgery to remove a piece of his skull, in a bid to reduce the mounting pressure on his brain.
Jill and her husband John were told their only child was unlikely to survive.
“We were just silent, we couldn’t ask questions. We were terrified,” admits Jill.
But then a miracle happened – Rowan woke up.
The mother will never forget the day of her son’s accident.
Having trained twice a week since the day he was able to get on the bike, Rowan was finally able to compete in his first race.
Securing his helmet and protective gear, the schoolboy eagerly hopped on his bike ready for his practice ride.
Family and friends were in the crowd and everyone was happy to cheer him on.
But at the first turn, the boy’s dreams came to a screeching halt, when he lost control of the back of the turn.
As the crowd erupted in horror, Jill began to weave through the people trying to find her boy.
“I just started running, running towards where I thought he had been,” she says.
It was then that she found Rowan, lying lifeless in the creek bed behind the race track.
“I was terrified – it was awful,” Jill reveals.
“He wasn’t in a good way.”
Six ambulances arrived, leaving the mother staring in horror at her boy surrounded by paramedics.
The gravity of the situation weighed heavily on Jill as Rowan was quickly carried into the ambulance and placed in a coma on the way to hospital.
“He never regained consciousness,” Jill recalled.
remove his skull
At the hospital, the family met a team of specialists who informed that Rowan’s head was swelling uncontrollably.
His brain was bleeding in his head, causing pressure inside the boy’s skull.
They had to reduce the pressure by removing a piece of his skull, in an operation known as a craniotomy.
The operation was a success, but Rowan’s brain continued to swell.
As a result, he suffered a devastating stroke in intensive care, causing temporary blood loss to his brain.
“At the time, we didn’t know what that meant,” says Jill.
“There were a number of things that could be wrong – mobility issues, he could be a vegetable, blindness…”
All worried parents could do was wait anxiously for their little boy to wake up.
Tube-fed, Rowan was placed in diapers as wires wrapped around every limb of his body.
“I didn’t cope at all,” admits Jill.
“He was just skin and bones.”
Having made the Ronald McDonald House inside the Queensland Children’s Hospital their home, Jill and John have spent every waking moment alongside their son.
They also slept there.
“I woke up once at 3 a.m. and woke John up so we could go see Rowan,” she says.
“So we walked through the hospital and went to see him.
“Nothing had changed, he was still the same.
“But it was so nice to be able to have this opportunity.”
The couple spent their time reading and playing Rowan’s favorite music to her.
And, after two weeks, he woke up.
Smiling and singing along with his parents, the boy continued to thrive.
Thrown into therapy, he learned to talk, walk and eat again – slowly building up his strength one day at a time.
Video calling his family and friends, the boy gave everyone a cheeky smile, a thumbs up and a wave, letting everyone know he would be fine.
With constant monitoring and testing, it appeared that the stroke had had no impact on the boy’s function.
But then Rowan asked if Jill could turn on the TV for him.
“I turned on the TV and he said, ‘Mom, I can’t see anything,'” Jill recalled.
“I was like, ‘What do you mean?’.”
Jill called the doctors, who soon discovered that Rowan was blind in both eyes.
famous soccer player
Despite the devastating blow, Rowan was unfazed by the loss of sight.
He jumped into learning braille and, remarkably, he mastered the craft within a year.
“He said he wanted to be a braille teacher when he grew up,” Jill beams.
After three months in hospital, Rowan was finally discharged and the family was very happy to be home.
With the help of weekly therapy, the nine-year-old loves trying out different activities with his cane by his side.
From piano to small sports and even soccer, Rowan doesn’t let his vision loss keep him from living his life to the fullest.
“He loves football,” Jill smiles.
“The ball has a special bell so he can hear where it is, and he has someone holding his hand to help him.”
The cheeky blue-eyed boy taught Jill and John how to enjoy life despite setbacks.
And they were amazed to see him tackle everyday tasks and dream big – like competing in the Paralympic Games.
The family is also eternally grateful to the Starlight Children’s Foundation for providing them with a caravan to allow them to go on holiday with their families.
“There are so many things to be happy about, why would we dwell on the sad times?” said Jill.
Rowan is an ambassador for Kid’s TowerStarlight’s epic 30-day National Cycling Challenge taking place in September.
The month-long Tour de Kids aims to raise $2.5 million to brighten the lives of more than 64,000 sick children.
To participate or make a donation, visit: tourdekids.org.au
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