Man in his prime struck down by rare spinal stroke
"DON'T panic, but a pain has just exploded up my spine and shot into my brain."
The stuttered sentence sent a chill through Sharon Jones as she raced towards the Emerald Hospital on September 2 last year in the family car.
"Get out here - my husband's in trouble," she screamed as four nurses came running from the emergency department with a wheelchair about 11.15pm.
Emerald Leading Edge IT service manager Phill Jones didn't know it, but at just 32 years of age he had been struck down by a rare spinal cord stroke.
A night that started with laughter and love at a relative's 40th birthday party at Gindie was about to descend into a five-month Brisbane hospital stay.
At the bedside of the father-of-two, doctors warned Sharon her husband was destined to live out his days as a ventilated quadriplegic.
But as so little is known about spinal cord strokes, there is also a dearth of recovery milestone data.
"That Phill survived at all is all the more rare," Sharon, a student nurse, said.
"He's a bit of a special case."
A special case that continues to intrigue and astound doctors.
In the first week, Phill wiggled his left toe and the leg began to respond, followed by his right limb.
Then his fingers started to twitch, hand by hand. His wrists regained some mobility.
"By week 13-14, the fingers started moving and both wrists can go up and down. The fingers can curl in but really can't extend," Sharon said.
"Phil managed to come off the main ventilator through the day when his arms started improving, but the last four weeks he seemed to stop and the doctors noticed his lungs were collapsing and he was getting chest infections.
"He had a really slow couple of weeks, but things are starting to improve again."
Life is now a day-by-day proposition filled with little miracles and teary setbacks for this Christian family whose faith remains rock solid.
Still unable to speak, Phill communicates with Sharon, his three-year-old son Elijah and 16-month-old daughter Gracie by a series of clicks in their nightly phone calls.
The length of his stay in hospital remains unknown.
"I love him," Sharon said of the source of her courage throughout this ordeal.
"Phil's family have been beautiful and kept me on track. And out of this, the friends we've got back in Emerald - I would have never expected the support they have given us.
"This has been horrible, but it has also been beautiful.
"Hopefully God will heal Phil completely."
Sharon gave special thanks to Dr Andrew Bai at the Emerald Hospital for recognising the stroke symptoms.