Thirteen years later and I can still remember the very early morning phone call from Mum.
“Tash, there has been an accident, Brian is in a bad way. Paul [our older brother] is on his way over…[crying from Mum]…the Navy will call us back when Paul arrives.
“It’s not good Tash, it sounds like he may die…[crying from Mum]”.
From that one call, Brian and our family changed for ever.
I got off the phone and was numb with disbelief. I had no idea what was going on, and the wait for Mum to call back felt like forever. I felt a million miles away and helpless as I was living in Brisbane and the rest of the family were in Canberra.
The next call was from my brother Paul. He explained the ship had docked in Goa, they had a night off and went in to town to have a few drinks, and something had gone horribly wrong and that the Navy needed one of us to fly to India to be with Brian. My brother flew over and he and the Navy were going to get him home.
The next time I saw my brother was in ICU at the Sydney North Shore Hospital.
We met with the head of neurosurgery and a heap of Navy officials. We were informed that Brian had suffered a number of strokes and heart attacks and that he had sustained a very bad acquired brain injury. We were told that the damage was extensive, and he would be requiring full time care for a very long time, if not forever.
We were then taken in to ICU, he had tubes everywhere and was on a life support machine. I can remember running out and being physically sick. I could not understand what was going on. I had not seen anything like this in my life.
My brother, who I had helped pack before he went overseas only 18 months earlier, was now in ICU with the possibility of not making it.
My brother was having a night out like any young 24-year-old. He bought a cigar at the bar, laced with ‘China White’ – a mix of illicit drugs, apparently commonly used in Goa by criminals to rob tourists. On top of the alcohol, it had a devastating effect.
Brian was an extremely fit sailor, so he began the fight of his life. All of his other organs were fit and healthy, but once the brain is damaged, it’s a very long recovery.
Brian was in ICU for quite some time before being transferred to North Shore Rehabilitation.
Family and friends constantly travelled from Canberra and Brisbane to help Brian in the early days. Without any places in Sydney or Canberra, Brian was transferred to Brisbane for long-term rehabilitation. Brian was then medically discharged from the Navy and unfortunately, the rehabilitation did not last for long. From then, he only received maintenance rehabilitation when the centre had a therapist.