Family’s Christmas miracle

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Kondinin farmers Helen and Matt Crane with their sons Lachlan, 4, and William, 6.
Camera IconKondinin farmers Helen and Matt Crane with their sons Lachlan, 4, and William, 6. Credit: Cally Dupe

This time two years ago, Kondinin farmer Matt Crane’s family were praying for a Christmas miracle after a life-threatening superbug attacked his body and pushed him close to death.

Instead of preparing for the festive season, the 36-year-old grain grower was fighting for his life in Fiona Stanley Hospital after being diagnosed with Necrotizing myositis, a severe and very rare soft tissue infection.

Mr Crane said it all began with what felt like the flu and some muscle pain after he slipped on a step on the chaser bin and injured his shoulder, on December 7, 2017.

In the four days that followed, flu-like symptoms transpired into extreme pain, sweating, exhaustion, and swelling around the pulled muscle.

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Necrotizing myositis is usually contracted through a cut, or an exposed wound, but Mr Crane cannot recall how he may have become infected.

Multiple trips to Narrogin Hospital and Kondinin Hospital led to him being airlifted by the Royal Flying Doctors Service four days after he first injured his shoulder.

On December 12, Mr Crane underwent the first of three operations to stem the infection — with surgeons creating an 80cm incision along his side.

“Before they knocked me out they said, ‘You’re pretty sick, you have to have an operation ... you might lose your arm, or you might die’,” he said.

After four days in an induced coma, Mr Crane woke up. Finally, after six days awake in hospital, he was released in time for Christmas Day.

But he was quickly brought back into hospital after he started to again feel unwell.

After three weeks in hospital, and three weeks at a relative’s house in Perth, Mr Crane was able to go home.

His wife Helen and two sons, William, 6, and Lachlan, 4, got the Christmas miracle they prayed for when they got to bring him home at the end of January.

Mr Crane is believed to be one of only a handful of people in the world to have survived the strain of superbug that ravaged his side and shocked plastic surgeons at the operating table.

He is also believed to be one of the only people in the world to have survived the disease without losing a limb — one of the others is former Victorian Football League player Sam O’Sullivan, who contracted the disease and survived in 2015.

Mr Crane underwent extensive physiotherapy to recover, with months of physiotherapy for his arm and side, and near-daily dressings on a pressure sore on his heel at Kondinin Hospital for almost 10 months.

These days, the hay bale reindeer and green-painted stack of tyres at the end of the family’s driveway, east of Kondinin, is a reminder of how the farmers’ friends rallied together to help them during the hardest fight of their lives.

“Before Matt got sick, we had been talking about wanting to make a reindeer out of hay and put it out the front,” Mrs Crane said.

“When the kids and I came back from seeing Matt in hospital, we came home to this huge reindeer that our friends had done ... it was so nice.

“Every year, we put it back up as a reminder of how lucky we are.”

The Cranes said they were also extremely grateful to the community for helping to care for their pets, summer spraying, and keeping their garden alive.

“We were really lucky to have that support, after just two years of being in Kondinin,” Mrs Crane said.

“We had some summer rain, and the next thing I knew Matt was back in the sprayer ... saying it was good for his rehab.”

Two years on from the ordeal, the Crane family say they are still surprised but extremely grateful to still be together.

Sitting in the family’s kitchen on Friday, Mrs Crane said she would never forget receiving the doctor’s phone call, which told her to prepare for the worst.

This Christmas, the Cranes are finally having the celebration they had originally planned two years ago.

“We are having Christmas at home,” Mrs Crane said.

“To look at Matt now, you wouldn’t even know this had happened.”

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