Story transcripts

Terry Terrific

Friday, October 5, 2012

Reporter: Tara Brown
Producer: Stephen Taylor

Sometimes just leading an ordinary life can be an extraordinary achievement. That's certainly the case for 17-year-old Terry Vo.

Seven years ago, Terry was playing backyard basketball when an attempted slam dunk brought a brick wall crashing down on him.

The accident severed both his hands and his left foot. World-first surgery reattached those limbs.

But what really amazed us was how this brave little boy smiled through everything.

Tara Brown has been following Terry's progress from the start and is pleased to say his story just gets better and better.

View our original story here.

Full transcript:

STORY – TARA BROWN: There is nothing Terry Vo can’t, or won’t, attempt. Badminton is his latest passion - a good way to keep fit and sharpen his reflexes, not that they need it. Sport has always been an important part of Terry’s life, even though seven years ago a friendly game of basketball almost ended it.

TERRY: I can’t believe it. It still feels like a dream, you know, having both my arms being cut off and then putting it back together is just a miracle basically.

TARA BROWN: I first met the then 10-year-old Terry Vo back in 2005. It was just days after the awful accident that sliced off both his hands and left foot. It could have been anyone’s backyard. Easter weekend, a child’s birthday party, and the children gathered around to play a game of basketball. Terry Vo had the ball, and as he’s done in countless other games, decided to slam dunk it. He jumped, and grabbed onto the basketball hoop which was just there, just above the garage, but as he hung on, the brick wall it was attached to gave way. Do you remember when you actually lost your hands and your foot? Do you remember that happening?

TERRY: It was pins and needles. It wasn’t really hurting much, but I felt it, and it felt like I was shivering, and I could still feel my hands while I was closing my eyes. When I opened my eyes I saw that my hands were gone. I still felt my legs, so I thought they were still there, so when I stood up I fell down, and then I looked at my leg. It was chopped off.

TARA BROWN: But from day one, despite the horror of what he saw and experienced, Terry Vo never complained.

TERRY: I am really, really lucky.

TARA BROWN: In what way could it have been worse?

TERRY: Like it could have chopped up here where my elbow were, and it could chop - even chop my head off.

ROB: Hell, it’s Rob here from St John Ambulance.

TARA BROWN: As unbelievable as Terry’s accident was -

ROB: He has two severed hands and one severed left foot.

TARA BROWN: It lead to a medical world first -

NURSE: Two hands and a foot?

ROB: That’s correct.

TARA BROWN: - as a team of 19 doctors and nurses reattached Terry’s three limbs, all at the same time.

ROBERT: So that’s his left foot, left hand, and right hand.

TARA BROWN: Dr Robert Love, from Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, was the surgeon in charge.

ROBERT: So this is the ankle joint down here. If you look closely, the shoe is still on – that’s the sole of the shoe and this is the strapping of the shoe, and you’ll see that the bones have been shattered. We’re probably half an hour away from letting this left hand down.

TARA BROWN: The operation took nine hours, and for the first week, everything looked great. But then a major setback - Terry’s foot began to die, and had to be amputated. Not that it slowed him down at all.

TERRY: I would like to improve a little bit a day.

TARA BROWN: Do you feel like you are?

TERRY: Yeah.

TARA BROWN: Within days, Terry was moving his fingers. Within a fortnight, he was taking his first steps.

PHYSIOTHERAPIST: Do you need a rest?

TERRY: No.

PHYSIOTHERAPIST: No, you’re ok? I need you to stand tall.

TERRY: I need to hop, I need to hop.

PHYSIOTHERAPIST: You need to hop? Okay, let’s keep moving.

TARA BROWN: And within six months, with a newly fitted prosthetic leg, he was back on the basketball court. You haven’t been doing any slam dunking, have you?

TERRY: Ah no, not yet.

TARA BROWN: Not yet? You told me you were never going to do it again.

TERRY: Never, nah. It doesn’t cross my mind until I see a slam dunk performed by maybe one of my friends. We always joke about it, like oh yeah, imagine if that fell on you. You know, we don’t see it as like a bad thing, just something that’s happened, and yeah, just move on.

TARA BROWN: And move on he has. Terry has remarkable physical stamina. His commitment to rehabilitation means he now has more than 85% of the function back in his hands. But I think it’s his mental strength that really sets him apart. He’s always been completely unfazed by any of the fuss.

TERRY: Yeah, that’s the good thing about being a kid. We’re always so simple-minded - how, oh I’ve had my hands chopped off, now they’re back on. Perfect, I can do anything I want, you know, but that thought has stuck to me throughout the years, and it’s become a habit of thinking like nothing can stop me, yeah.

TARA BROWN: In a few months Terry will be 18. He sailed through high school, and this year enrolled at Perth’s Curtin University. Not surprisingly, his ambition is medicine.

TERRY: My dream is to become a doctor, to, you know, help other people, ‘cause the doctors gave me a second chance in life, and I want to do the same for other people, give them a second chance.

TARA BROWN: Over the last seven years, we’ve learned Terry Vo isn’t frightened to try anything, and it turns out he’s good at everything. Behind the gentle smile is a resolve to never be defeated.

TERRY: I can do anything I want, even though this accident has tried to stop me. You know, the hands are awesome. Steady hands, you know, hands of a surgeon. Dr Vo - it has a good ring to it.

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