Yooralla customer presents at key tracheostomy event

DATE: 20 November 2019

Yooralla customer presents at key tracheostomy event


Yooralla customer Gerard has shared his incredible story of survival and recovery at The 2019 International Tracheostomy Symposium (ITS).

Yooralla customer Gerard has shared his incredible story of survival and recovery at The 2019 International Tracheostomy Symposium (ITS) recently held in Melbourne.

“There can be an enormous amount of frustration when suddenly you can’t communicate,” said Gerard who lives at Yooralla’s Ventilator Accommodation Support Service (VASS) in Thornbury.

In August 2014, Gerard lost his footing on the bottom rung of the ladder at home and toppled through the deck railing, off the deck to the ground below, breaking his neck and damaging his spinal cord at C1.

He had no heartbeat and wasn’t breathing. Thanks to the efforts of his neighbours, the paramedics, the emergency department and his wife Sue, he survived.

“Suddenly I needed a ventilator to breathe. Not being able to speak was a challenge, not just for me but also for my family. We struggled with lip reading and using the alphabet board was a challenge,” he said.

Gerard said he was “forever grateful” to the team at the Tracheostomy Review and Management Service (TRAMS) at Austin Hospital who “provide world class” tracheostomy care. TRAMS is one of the organisers of ITS.

“Though I was still in hospital, being able to communicate and eat pretty soon after my accident was a huge bonus and assisted me in being able to direct some of my care and get back to work on my computer,” he said.

Kristy McMurray, the Manager of VASS, who previously worked at the Austin Hospital as a TRAMS’ Senior Clinical Nurse Consultant, said Gerard is a “huge inspiration”.

“He has written four books: Stand on the Shoulders of Giants, Release the Giant, Think Like a Giant and Hey, What’s the Big Idea, where he has documented the progress that he continues to make. He’s also spoken at numerous education events, including the 2014 ITS, he gets out and about – to the basketball, theatre and movies,” said Kristy.

Gerard said his books focus on how to overcome difficult situations and how to preserve and move forward in life.

“The human spirit is much stronger than what we give it credit for. But I have to say, the most critical part of your recovery is the support you have from your friends and family,” he said.

ITS aims to promote safer patient care by sharing knowledge from across the different disciplines involved in tracheostomy care and advancing research in this specialty area. Each year, the event is attended by hundreds of leading tracheostomy specialists, doctors, nurses and Allied Health professionals from around the world, as well as people living with a tracheostomy and their families.

Yooralla’s VASS is a unique service that was purpose built for people who are dependent on mechanical ventilators and require high-level 24-hour support. It is the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

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