Erin Shi can’t really remember Friday 20 January 2017. She certainly can’t remember the traumatic events that occurred on that day, and sent shockwaves through Australia. She was 18 at the time. And she was actually there.

Jiama with Erin in the Royal Melbourne Hospital's Intensive Care Unit

On Friday 20 January 2017, eleven victims of the Bourke Street Mall tragedy were brought here to The Royal Melbourne Hospital, and were met by the many medical staff who fought hard to save them, heal them, and send them home to their loved ones.

Erin experienced the Bourke Street Mall attack in such a unique way. She was out shopping with a friend, and she remembers buying the handbag. She remembers stepping out onto Bourke Street – but then nothing. Her next memory is waking up in her hospital bed, feeling very, very strange. And that was 25 days later.

Erin owes her life to the care she received from the RMH's Intensive Care Unit
Erin owes her life to the care she received from the RMH's Intensive Care Unit

Erin’s head injury was so serious and her condition so critical, she had to be kept in an induced coma. She remained on the official ‘critical list’ for weeks following the incident, and in truth, her doctors did not expect her to make it.

As her mum, Jiana, recalls:

“The doctors said Erin was unlikely to survive. And that if she did wake up, she would be seriously disabled because it was ‘whole brain’ damage. They didn't know if she would be able to talk, or even eat. They told me, ‘Even if she does wake up, she still will be in danger.’”

Jiana sat by Erin’s bed every single one of those 25 days. Hoping. Trusting in the skill and expertise of her daughter’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) team. Watching as one of the nurses lovingly washed Erin’s hair every day, after part of it had been shaved away for treatment. Always fearing the worst. Always hoping for a miracle. Remaining by her precious child’s side through every unconscious breath.

Then remarkably, and against all the odds, Erin pulled through.

When she finally came out of the coma, she was confused and disoriented. But she was alive, and her brain function was good. Just days later she was talking. And by the end of the week word had spread amongst her friends that she was awake.

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How did this happen?

How could Erin have gone from being critically ill, close to death, almost certain of permanent brain damage, to such a wonderful recovery? It’s thanks to the tireless work of the hundreds of ICU staff, right here at the Royal Melbourne. And this winter, we’re asking you to support the Intensive Care Unit for our annual Tax Appeal to help them continue to do their good work.

The Royal Melbourne’s ICU is made up of four specialised “Pods”. You could think of an ICU Pod as a kind of self-contained life-support centre for 10 critically ill patients. Each Pod is made up of 10 beds in 10 rooms. Each room is staffed by a dedicated ICU nurse, and is fully fitted out with the latest specialised intensive-care equipment. And all of this is built around a central ICU care hub.

No one knows better that Erin just how important it is to be able to provide people with the highest possible quality of care. She knows she owes her life to it.

As she says herself:

“The Royal Melbourne ICU is amazing. The equipment. The facilities. Everything is the best. And the doctors, the specialists and nurses. They all do the best job. They make miracles happen.”

Erin has seen first-hand the value and importance of making sure our ICU teams have the very best facilities and equipment at their fingertips.

She knows they’re the reason she survived, the reason she woke up, the reason she recovered. And knows that the reason they could help her … is you.

This winter, we’re hoping to raise $100,000 to help complete the final Pod, Pod D, without delay in order to continue providing people like Erin with the ICU capabilities Victorians urgently need.

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It’s now almost a year and a half since Erin woke up in ICU, and while she still faces challenges, she has recovered, and is putting her life back together.

She’s working, and she’s studying too. And despite everything, she’s incredibly positive. As she told us recently:

“My outlook on life has changed a lot. I almost died. It’s affected my friends too. It’s matured all of us so much. We used to go to clubs all the time, but we don't do that as much anymore. We enjoy going out for dinner and doing really ‘adulty’ things instead.

I still have memory problems, sleeping problems and fatigue is an issue too. My left arm is still very weak compared to my right arm, because of the nerve damage when the bone broke. And the break was so bad I had the cast on till September. But I try to keep a positive mind-set about it all.”

Jiama hugs Erin and is thankful for the ICU team at the Royal Melbourne Hospital
Jiama hugs Erin and is thankful for the ICU team at the Royal Melbourne Hospital

Erin will rebuild her life. And thankfully, her complete lack of recall of the events themselves means she has been spared the worst of the psychological trauma victims of violent events often experience.

Tragically though, her poor mum Jiana has not been as fortunate.

Jiana was traumatised by the incident and still struggles daily because of the close brush with death and disability her little girl experienced. As she says:

“When Erin was in ICU I couldn't sleep. If I saw her photo on the news, I had nightmares. Every night, around one or two o'clock, I would wake up, her face would just appear. I still suffer depression. I still have nightmares. When I go to the city, the crowds and the cars make me very, very scared.”

Help us help the people you love

Please help us help the people you love, and dig deep for The Royal Melbourne Hospital ICU Tax Appeal.

Please donate and pledge your support today.

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