Survival

A pole went through my brain – and I SURVIVED

Liam was at his best friend's 18th birthday when something unthinkable happened
60 Minutes/Supplied

Here, Liam Knight, 23, tells the story in his own words…

I bounded down the stairs three steps at a time, a big grin on my face.

‘I’m off now, Mum,’ I said, full of excitement.

It was the night of my best mate Harry’s 18th. He was the first one in our group to hit the milestone.

In our last year of high school, it was the beginning of the rest of our lives.

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I was off to a birthday party on that fateful night (Credit: Supplied)

‘Call when you’re ready to come home and I’ll pick you up!’ my mum Mary, 59, said.

Nervous, she wanted me to stay safe. At 17, I was the baby of the family – with three older brothers, Shane, 25, Todd, 21, and Kyle, 20.

Giving Mum a hug and a kiss, I rushed to meet my friend waiting outside.

Heading into the party in Forestville, in Sydney’s north, I was greeted by booming music as laughter blasted throughout the room.

Sitting outside later in the night, I heard angry shouting coming from the backyard.

Then I noticed a crowd of people near the fence.

‘Mate, you’re not invited, you have to leave,’ Harry’s dad yelled out.

Heading over, I saw gatecrashers were trying to climb into the yard.

One person had scaled the fence, clambering onto the roof of a shed.

A furious look on his face, he grabbed some building materials and started wildly throwing them. Screams pierced through the party.

‘Stop that, get away!’ someone shouted.

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At 17, I was the baby of the family – with three older brothers, Shane, 25, Todd, 21, and Kyle, 20 (Credit: Supplied)

A fence pole went flying through the air, so people turned to avoid being hit.

Then suddenly, everything went black. Face down in the grass, I came to. In and out of consciousness, I heard the faint blare of sirens.

Then, the next thing I knew, my eyes flickered open in hospital. Mum and my brother Shane were there.

‘I need to go to the toilet,’ 
I croaked, feeling confused.

All the eyes on me widened in shock and Mum broke into a laughing sob.

For some strange reason, I thought the hospital room was a newsagency and the nurses were customers.

Calling the nurses over, Mum crouched over me, her face streaked with tears.

‘Liam, it’s okay,’ she said gently.

Looking around deliriously, I realised I was hooked up to a load of machines.

What happened to me?

I couldn’t remember a thing from the entire party.

Then, doctors came in and told me the horrifying truth. I’d been in a coma for 12 days.

One of the gatecrashers had thrown the steel fence pole right at me.

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I couldn’t remember anything from the party (Credit: Supplied)

Shockingly, the three-metre pole – which weighed 2.5kg – had impaled me straight through the skull.

Arriving within minutes, ambos had to cut through it, using cold water so the steel didn’t overheat my brain.

But they had to take me to hospital with it still through my head.

Put in an induced coma, 
I was wheeled into surgery.

It was a meticulous procedure – as a single millimetre of movement could have proved catastrophic.

Before the surgery, the doctor asked my family to say their goodbyes.

‘It’s not looking good,’ 
he told Mum gently.

The truth was, I should have been dead.

Then, surgeon Dr Adam Fowler spent five hours removing the pole from my brain and flushing out the bacteria and flecks of rust.

Waiting for me to wake up, my family hadn’t left my side.

Luckily, the pole missed the key parts of my brain.

It hit the sweet spot, I thought, amazed.

But it’d damaged the area controlling movement. Trying to lift my head, I barely moved an inch before flopping down in frustration.

I can’t move, I realised.

My lack of cognitive ability also badly slurred my speech.

60 Minutes
The pole had pierced my skull and went straight through my brain (Credit: 60 Minutes)

After a few days, I started to really struggle.

I wish I’d never even woken up, I thought bitterly.

I’d gone from an active, fit teenager to someone who couldn’t even get out of bed.

Was this my life now?

My brothers visited every day, even bringing a ball in to throw around and force me to recall hand-eye coordination.

Friends and family also stayed by my side.

Slowly but surely, I started to get better.

At rehab, I gradually got back on my feet. At first, putting one foot in front of the other seemed impossible – but in days I was walking.

After over five months, 
I was finally allowed home.

On the surface, I looked like my old self – a happy, healthy teenager.

But in reality, I needed anti-seizure medication and used a walking stick.

‘Everything is going to be okay,’ Mum would say.

It was a tough time, but five months after the attack I went back to school and was so pleased to finish my HSC.

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I had to learn to walk again (Credit: Supplied)

In May 2014, a teenager – who cannot be named for 
legal reasons – was found guilty of assault causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

‘He changed my life for the fact that he could not get into a party,’ I told the court.

He was sentenced to a minimum eight years in jail.

Six years on, I’ve recovered far better than anyone imagined. Luckily, I’ve had my mum, dad and brothers every step of the way.

And my mates have been so supportive, too.

Setting up a charity in 2013, the White Knight Foundation, I wanted to support other young victims of violence.

Amazingly, we have donated over $150,000 to help young people in their recovery.

Looking back it seems unthinkable that I was impaled through the brain and survived.

After that, I’m ready for whatever life throws at me.

I am capable of anything.

Read more in this month’s issue of that’s life! MEGA MONTHLY, on sale now.

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We’ve donated over $150,000 (Credit: Supplied)

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