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Sebastian Gobbett’s story of survival

One of the most remarkable and inspiring stories you’ll hear.

Warning: this article and video contains medical trauma.

Mineral Resources Limited (MinRes) Principal Geologist – Mine Geology Simon Gobbett had just flown out to the Windarling iron ore operation when his world was turned upside down by a phone call from his wife, Olivia.

Through a crackled phone line, Simon could barely hear the news his son Sebastian had been hit by a four-wheel-drive travelling at 90km/h.

“At first I didn’t really understand what was happening because the phone call kept breaking up and then I got a photo of Sebastian,” Simon explained.

“I dropped everything and spoke to the management and said, ‘Get me out as quick as you can’, and they put me on a plane as soon as they could.”

It was August 2021, and the Gobbett family had spent the day prior to the accident celebrating Sebastian’s 10th birthday.

As Simon flew to site, the rest of the family hopped on bikes for a leisurely ride near their home in Coondle, north of Toodyay, taking advantage of a picturesque Wheatbelt morning instead of their usual activity time after school.

Sebastian’s brother, Theodore, had stopped at the road where they were due to meet, but as Sebastian came down the hill, he called out to his brother that he couldn’t stop.

“We heard this mighty crash bang of metal, but we didn’t register what it was when we were still up the top of the hill,” Sebastian’s mum, Olivia, explained.

“Theodore came running up the hill and his face was just one of shock horror and he said, ‘Sebastian has been hit’ and I just started running.”

His bike was mangled under the front of the car, but Sebastian’s severely injured body was at the back of the vehicle.

Sebastian was urgently loaded into the RAC rescue helicopter bound for Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH). Mid-flight his pulse and blood pressure dropped and he was provided with life-saving blood by the onboard paramedics.

Admitted to the intensive care unit, the medical team at PCH did everything they could do to reduce the swelling on Sebastian’s brain, however the decision was eventually made to remove part of his skull to allow the swelling to fully reduce.

Sebastian’s list of injuries was lengthy: a traumatic brain injury (TBI) with severe axonal injury, frontal lobe bleeds, temporal lobe bleeds, base of skull fracture, spinal fractures, all neck ligaments torn, punctured lungs and other internal trauma.

Severely injured, the message from hospital staff was simple: they weren’t sure if he would ever wake up.

Sebastian was on life support for three weeks, before the decision was made to turn off the machines keeping him alive, with the family and medical staff unsure how his body would react.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle, according to Olivia.

“We’d had a pastor come in and anoint him and say a prayer over him and then he just breathed,” she said.

“The doctor just walked out and he was shocked that he’d actually breathed with no help – it was just a miracle.”

Determined to fast-track their son’s recovery, Simon and Olivia spent their time researching medical papers for any relevant information and eventually discovered neurogenesis, which explores the idea that the brain can heal itself, neurons can regrow, and connections can reconnect.

The hospital team continued its round-the-clock care for Sebastian, including implementing some of the findings from Simon and Olivia, however it was four months before he showed any signs of movement.

At the end of November, Sebastian was released for a one-off home visit, but the family was still unsure if he would be able to walk or talk again.

Returning to hospital, the family was informed Sebastian’s recovery had “plateaued”, so his skull was reinserted and he was discharged on Christmas Eve.

However, Simon, Olivia and the Gobbett family didn’t lose hope of a full recovery.

On a specific diet consisting mainly of berries, grapes and hemp seeds, Sebastian started to make a significant recovery.

Incredibly, eight months after his life-changing accident, Sebastian took his first unassisted steps.

“I made a promise to him that he would walk again, so I had to keep that promise,” Olivia said.

Continued work with a speech therapist saw Sebastian eventually say the word “mum” and by that night he had strung together a full sentence.

The Gobbett family is full of praise for the incredible staff at PCH and for the support of MinRes.

“The hospital staff were amazing and they did everything they could – they kept him alive,” Simon said.

“My family and I would like to sincerely thank all the amazing generous and kind people at MinRes who dug deep into their pockets to donate to the fund to help Sebastian.

“With all the donated money, support and help from the MinRes leadership team, especially the driving force of Bob Gavranich who was totally incredible, we were able to purchase a van with special wheelchair access to allow us to safely transport Sebastian to all his many and varied future appointments for his ongoing rehabilitation and further operations.

“We would also like to thank the leadership of MinRes, especially (Chief Executive Lithium) Joshua Thurlow who graciously allowed extra time for me to be away from work and be with Sebastian and my family to care for him at hospital, and to ultimately thank (Managing Director) Chris Ellison who made it all happen.”

Watch Sebastian’s full story below.