Post-cyclone mystery illness destroys the calm after storm
JUST when Brett Young thought he’d weathered the storm, a mystery infection left him in a coma.
Brett’s wife Tanya Bertram remained strong and optimistic throughout the ordeal, her voice barely wavering as she spoke of what it was like facing the likelihood of her husband’s death.
“The doctors told me to get the family down to say their final goodbyes to Brett. It was a horrific time,” she said.
“Everything presented normally to doctors, but Brett was experiencing a severe reaction in his lungs.”
With his condition rapidly declining, Mr Young was raced from Proserpine Hospital to Mackay, where he was placed in an induced coma just a week after the natural disaster.
He remained paralysed and sedated for a month.
“It wasn’t an easy time. We were told if he passed a certain point he would have permanent brain damage and restricted movement,” Ms Bertram said.
“They would always say ‘if’ he wakes up, not ‘when’, which painted a bleak forecast.”
After having endured numerous heart attacks and a stroke, Mr Young’s road to recovery had only just begun.
Ms Bertram was forced to break the lease of their new home to stay in Red Cross crisis accommodation to be by her husband’s side while he fought for his life in a Mackay ICU ward.
Once Mr Young amazed doctors by waking from a coma, he still had to regain basic movement.
“He couldn’t even move his legs, he couldn’t buzz the nurses,” Ms Bertram said.
Mr Young defied the odds by walking again and narrowly escaped serious brain damage, but his lungs are reduced to 30 per cent capacity due to permanent scarring.
“I can get stronger and I will. I owe it to everyone who believed in me,” he said.
A potential lung transplant could have Mr Young returning to full health but would require the couple to relocate to a metro area and leave behind
“It would present a whole lot of other challenges and Airlie is home now,” Mr Young said.
After eight months split between Mackay and Townsville hospitals, Mr Young and Ms Bertram were able to return home to Airlie.
With the furniture that tied them to Airlie still in storage, the couple will finalise the purchase of Quadrant Marine this week, a venture put on hold through the ordeal.
“The shop will allow Brett to still be involved in the boating world,” Ms Bertram said.
While he hasn’t been able to sail his yacht Haywire since his illness, the couple have managed to get out onto the water with a friend at the helm.
“There’s not enough about the health hazards post natural disasters,” Mr Young said.
“Everything in the air is intensified and, as I’ve learnt, spores and bacteria can cause severe health repercussions.
“We thought we’d got off lightly, but the clean-up of a friend’s house almost cost me my life.”
ROUGH SAILING: Tanya Bertram and Brett Young at Abell Point Marina in front of their yacht Haywire.