‘It’s twins!’ he said. Joel admitted he was nervous about having two little ones, but he was already an amazing father
to his girl, 10.
From the day Nayte and Jayke were born, Joel relished every moment. ‘Even the midnight feeds and changing nappies!’ he said, in love.
As they grew, the three of them would blow bubbles and chase lizards together. ‘That’s my boys!’ Joel would beam.
Then one day in August 2016, Joel phoned our mum Donna, 58. He’d come down with the flu and asked if she could have the twins for the night, so I went over to help her.
Joel was never sick, but this sounded bad. He couldn’t keep anything down and his urine was dark brown in colour.
‘He promised me he’d go to hospital,’ Mum said.
Once there, doctors said he was severely dehydrated and connected him to a drip, before he was sent home the next morning. But when my sister Amie, 37, picked him up, he said he felt like he was dying. So instead of going home, Joel went to stay with my dad, Warren, 63.
Over the next two days, my dear brother struggled to sleep as he writhed around in agony until Dad called an ambulance.
When paramedics arrived, they fitted Joel with a white mask to prevent germs from spreading. ‘It sounds like you’ve just got the flu,’ they said. But when they noticed specks of blood in Joel’s mask, he was rushed to Toowoomba Hospital.
A few hours later, when Dad came to see me, I knew immediately something wasn’t right. ‘They don’t know if he’s going to make it,’ Dad said, bursting into tears. ‘They said to get the family there as soon as possible.’ Crushed, I felt like the room was spinning. But the hardest part was hearing Mum’s screams when I called her.
Although we’d explained to the twins, then three, that Joel was sick, we decided not to let them see him on life support.
Despite the doctor’s warning, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. Hooked up to the machines, his skin was grey.
Testing positive for influenza A and pneumonia, Joel had suffered heart failure, collapsed lungs and his kidneys were shutting down. Although doctors said he was unlikely to survive, we were determined to keep fighting.
Making a family pact that someone would stay with Joel at all times, we took turns talking to him. ‘You’ll never be alone,’ I sobbed, placing a photo of the twins on his chest.
But the following day, things took a turn for the worst when he contracted sepsis. Even if he miraculously pulled through, doctors couldn’t rule out brain damage. ‘He wouldn’t want to live like that,’ Dad said.
So my family made the heartbreaking decision to turn off Joel’s life support. He was just 31. ‘I promise to keep your boys safe,’ I wept.
We told the twins that Daddy had gone to heaven. Though they were too young to understand, they were sad when they realised he was never coming home.
Since Joel’s tragic passing, my entire family now get the flu jab ever year. Sadly, Joel was worried he and the kids would get ill from the vaccine. So he decided it wasn’t worth it. But the jab doesn’t make you sick.
Doctors advised that having the shot, along with early intervention, could have prevented his condition. Costing between $10 and $20, it’s a small price to pay to save your life.
Now, three years on, not a day goes by when I don’t think of my lovely brother. Although the boys live with my mum and brother Brendan, 27, we all help to raise them, including my little brother, Hayden, 14.
Bright and caring, Nayte and Jayke, now six, talk about their dad every day. They even announced that they had saved all their pocket money for something special. ‘We want to buy a rocket to visit Daddy in heaven,’ they smiled.
I even gifted them their own star so they could talk to him whenever their hearts desired. Staring up at the night sky, I point out the brightest one. ‘That’s Daddy,’ I say.
Now it’s flu season, I’m sharing Joel’s story to warn others to take their symptoms seriously and to get vaccinated. People should know that the flu can be fatal.