Critically injured Artaban’s remarkable road to recovery

6 May 2024 | Expected time to read: 4 minutes

In November 2023, on a day out surfing with his school in Manly, 14-year-old Artaban and his friends took a short cut, climbing along some rocks between Manly and the adjoining beach at Freshwater. As he walked, the rocks gave way underneath him and he fell 15 metres, landing in a crevasse between two rocks. 

His friends rushed down to him, and, realising he had survived the significant fall, thought quickly to clear his airways to help him to breathe, while they sought help.  

“That really saved his brain,” Artaban’s mum, Antigone says, “because he didn’t have any lack of oxygen, and then the lifesavers arrived.”

Artaban lays in a hospital bed with his mum leaning over on his left. They are both smiling with thumbs up.

Artaban’s injuries were so severe that when the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) doctor arrived with the ambulance, they intubated him right away to help ensure that his airways stayed open for the journey to Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.  

As the weather was too poor for him to be airlifted, the ambulance took Artaban to the Hospital under a ‘green corridor’, with police delivering blood for a transfusion enroute, before they arrived to emergency teams standing by for his arrival. 

“They're ready and waiting,” explains Sarah, Trauma Clinical Nurse Consultant. “So, as soon as the patient arrives, everyone's got their assigned roles and if there's any prep that they can do, then they'll do that.” 

Once Artaban arrived they assessed his injuries, which included a ruptured spleen, complex base of skull fracture and a ruptured artery inside his skull, chest injuries including a punctured lung, multiple rib fractures, five spinal fractures, a perforated stomach and other internal injuries, a complex elbow fracture, a complex foot fracture and injuries to his hip, pelvis, and hand. 

“He’s the sickest child I have ever, ever looked after from a traumatic injury point of view,” Sarah says, “his injuries could have killed him, many of them.” 

Artaban was rushed to the operating theatre where he underwent six life-saving surgeries in one night. 

We had to say goodbye,” says Antigone. “Because at that time we didn't know if he would make it or not. The probability for him to die was more than 95 percent.” 

Artaban lays in a hospital bed wearing a blue medical helmet. The bed is covered by a beige, red and blue striped blanket. Artaban wears a black shirt and has a navy and grey blanket over his body.

Artaban was placed in an induced coma and over the coming two weeks had another six surgeries involving multiple teams of surgeons with many specialties. 

“He had four orthopaedic surgeons involved in his care because they all specialise in different orthopaedic surgery. Someone looked after his knee, someone looked after his hip, someone looked after his right foot and someone looked after his spine,” says Sarah.  

While Artaban was sedated in the ICU between surgeries, his parents were supported by staff while they anxiously waited for their son to wake up.  

We just discovered a new world of people taking care of others,” says Alexandre, Artaban’s dad. “We had a nurse 24/7 for six weeks. On the first night we arrived, we were given toothbrushes and pyjamas – because I had just left the office. We had people coming to check on us and all the mental health help for us. 

On Christmas Eve, the family’s patience and prayers were answered when Artaban spoke his first words in the four weeks since the accident. His first memories are hazy.  

“I remember when I said, ‘it's very cold’ and I remember when some visitors came in, but that's all I can remember,” Artaban recalls. 

Little by little Artaban’s communication and physical recovery improved, and his parents were thrilled to see their boy come back to them. 

Artaban sits in a wheelchair with a moonboot on his right foot. A nurse poses next to him. They are both smiling.

“Every day you have good news to share. Alright, so he can drink, he can pump his own blood, he can go to the toilet. It’s liberating – all these small kinds of things that sometimes we forget that humans can do. These were big steps for us, and we enjoyed this pattern because it was like giving birth a second time,” recalls Antigone. 

Just under three months after his traumatic injuries, Artaban was discharged from hospital. For Sarah, watching patients as critically injured as Artaban walk out of the hospital is incredibly rewarding.  

Artaban stands unassisted out the front of the Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick. His mouth is open in a smile. He is wearing a moon boot on his right leg.

“It’s euphoric when there’s a big smile on their face and there’s a big hug, and they’re so thrilled. They get to go back out into the world and they get to get back on with their lives. Artaban still has a future, a really promising future.” 

“He’s doing amazing,” says Antigone. “He’s the best he can be. He’s working, he’s swimming, he is very joyful and very strong. He wants to be better and to rebuild his body. I think he’s been determined since the beginning. He’s always fought. He stayed alive and fought. He is a real fighter.” 

Alexandre laughs, “The thing for me is, we play chess together, and now he beats me all the time. He’s better than he was before!” 

Support the care and recovery of critically injured kids, like Artaban and their families by donating to Sydney Sick Kids Appeal. Visit www.schf.org.au or call 1800 770 122 to donate today. 

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