60 Minutes blog

Tara Brown - Pursuing the doctor title

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Doctor Terry Vo – the name and title has a good ring to it, and I have no doubt that in the not too distant future, we’ll be hearing it a lot.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At present, Dr Terry Vo is really just Terry Vo, an almost 18-year-old Curtin University student in Perth. Terry is studying for a science degree and, assuming his marks are good enough, (which they will be) he’ll transfer to medicine in a few years time. He’s already worked out he wants to be a liver specialist because he wants to help as many people as possible, and he reckons lots of Australians need help with their livers. (As someone who enjoys the odd glass of wine, the less said here the better.)

But I’m still a bit ahead of myself. Sorry. Let me go back to 2005.

I first met Terry seven years ago in rather uncertain circumstances. The then 10-year-old was in Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, having suffered the most awful injuries in a freak accident. He’d been playing backyard basketball with some mates when he went for a slam dunk. As he jumped and grabbed the hoop, the whole brick wall where the hoop was attached collapsed and fell on him. As bad luck would have it, the jagged edges of the bricks sliced cleanly through both of Terry’s arms, and his left foot. Imagine the sight – in a split-second of mayhem, Terry looked up to see his hands and leg no longer where they should be.

You and I would probably have screamed. But not Terry Vo. He calmly waited in the rubble for help. First, his parents and their friends (who did scream), and then the ambulance paramedics (who thought about screaming but didn’t) arrived to assess the chaos and administer first aid.

This was when Terry’s luck went from bad to good.

He, and his detached limbs, were rushed to the emergency department of the hospital, where a team of 19 brilliant surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and other medical experts, spent the next nine hours performing world-first surgery. They simultaneously reattached Terry’s arms and leg. Their intricate work was made even more complicated by having to manage the toxins created by Terry’s body as he went into shock after the accident. If not controlled, these poisons would have killed Terry.

The operation was a great success. All went well for the first week, but then Terry’s foot started dying and had to be amputated. This setback turned out to be a blessing because his leg was really too badly damaged to be viable. Terry’s hands, however, were a different matter. They started healing.

And so began the painstaking process of rehabilitation.

Within a few days, Terry started moving his fingers, little by little.

Within a fortnight, Terry started taking his first steps down the hospital corridor, in anticipation of a prosthetic leg, which would soon be fitted.

And within six months, I was watching Terry back on the basketball court (a proper one --- and thankfully not a brick wall in sight) shooting hoops and running around his opponents like a seasoned pro.

Since then, I’ve revisited Terry every few years … and everytime I’ve been amazed by his physical progress. And over that time, we’ve certainly put him through his paces. We’ve filmed him writing, drawing, playing computer games - the drums, the keyboard and cricket, solving the Rubik’s Cube, even breakdancing. It seems there is nothing he can’t do. His hands and his new foot work remarkably well – 85% and still getting better each week.

But I reckon his mental recovery is just as impressive. Terry has a zen-like quality which means he’s completely unruffled by any obstacle the world can throw at him. The boy who stayed calm when confronted with the hell of losing his limbs has grown into an equally unflappable and self-assured young man. (And for the young women, he’s also grown into a bit of a spunk!)

So, having spent so much time in the care of doctors and nurses, it’s no wonder Terry’s now pursuing the Doctor title. And no doubt, when he graduates, my boss at 60 MINUTES will dispatch me and a crew to Perth to record the brilliant news. I can hardly wait!

User comments
Where is the trust fund for this young man to pay for his HECS acct. I would proudly donate towards his future. Anybody with age and wisdom have already learnt he is headed for great things with that attitude. I wont to be apart of his journey.
Having almost lost a hand 12 years ago, I know the pain and mental strength needed to continue a normal life. Terry is beautiful to watch and proves that anything is possible once you set your mind to it. Hats off to the medical team too without whom this wonderful boy would have had a very different outcome. You will succeed Terry, because you are brave, determined and wonderful.
amazing spirit, wishing Terry nothing but success.
What an amazing young man a joy to see you good luck with your study to be a doctor you are truly an inspiration .
What an inspirational young man. I wish him all the best on his dream of becoming Dr Terry Vo!
Terry you are an inspiration, a ray of sunshine, you have smiled through thick and thin from a young age. May all your wishes and dreams come alive, may your spirit guide others. You deserve all the smiles we take for granted. Children are our future. You keep the dream alive for all that have forgotten! DR. TERRY VO you will change lives!! Grazie, Thank you, Mahaolo God Bless
We have watched this incredible young man, from the initial tragedy to tonights episode. I was so proud of this young man and his achievements. What a true inspiration, all the best to him and his goal of being a doctor.
What a beautiful persona and a truly inspirational young man Terry Vo is. His positive attitude just radiates from within.
wow!!! what a positive hansome young man. I admire the outlook you have on life and the amazing smile and spirit you share
As Terry said, it has a good ring to it. I cried through the story, but laughed and smiled the entire time too, because the gorgeousness of his heart just shone through. Thank you for sharing Terry’s story. Dr. Vo does have an excellent ring to it.

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