11 October 2019

The very best reasons to bleed Green: why supporting our local teams really matters

| Alanna Davis
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Ricky Stuart and TJ Campagna.

The Raiders’ Ricky Stuart visits TJ Campagna in the Canberra Hospital during his long recovery period. Photos: Supplied.

Proud Canberran Alanna Davis is a passionate supporter of the Brumbies, the Raiders, the Caps and the Cavs, and a champion for women’s equality and safety. But it wasn’t until tragedy struck two years ago that she understood the depth of our community’s spirit.

In December 2017, six days before Christmas, my son and I were involved in a multi-vehicle high-speed car crash. Five people were taken to hospital. My son, TJ, was airlifted to Canberra Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.

He sustained fractured ribs, loss of his abdominal muscle, trauma and loss of part of his large intestines, damage to his teeth and a collapsed lung. TJ was resuscitated on the operating table.

TJ remained in ICU for eight days and has spent a lot of time in hospital. He has undergone five surgeries, three classified as urgent. TJ has spent countless hours in rehabilitation and recovery sessions.

He has a dedicated team around him. A psychologist, physiotherapists, physiologist, personal trainer, massage therapist, tutor, GP, nurses, surgeons, lawyers, hundreds of dedicated and amazing staff at The Canberra Hospital.

But the other group of people that can never be underestimated is our community. When times are tough, the Canberra community rallies. I remember sitting in hospital by TJ’s bed and a nurse handed me a block of chocolate and a card. A stranger had left it at reception for us.

I remember coming back to his room to find two Brumbies jerseys had been left by one of their junior players. I remember the countless strangers who posted to social media wearing their footy jerseys in a sign of support for my sick boy.

TJ Campagna and some of the Raiders.

TJ with some of his heroes from the Raiders.

I remember Sam Williams and Jack Wighton of the Canberra Raiders visiting him. I remember Sam bending down and talking so softly to him. They left gifts for him and his cousins. I remember Ben Alexander of the Brumbies visiting and gifting TJ a very personal and irreplaceable Wallaby’s jersey. He spent ages with TJ.

I remember visits and messages from other people: Adam Shirley, Kirsty Webeck, Kristen Davidson, Stephen Moore, Tim Mannah, Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry, Tim Gavel, the entire Brumbies and Raiders clubs, and hundreds of people from our community.

The kindness of Sia Soliola of the Raiders and Andy Muirhead, Allan Alaalatoa and Scott Sio of the Brumbies and all they have done for TJ … I’ll never forget the countless times Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies reached out to TJ, either by visiting, sending gifts, speaking on television or wearing his initials on his wrist band.

On Christmas morning while in ICU, battling massive pain and infection, missing out on spending Christmas like all normal 13-year-olds, TJ was visited by our leader. Our coach. Our local legend. Who visits a total stranger on Christmas morning in ICU, while not spending time with his own family? And brings gifts?

Ricky Stuart does.

An incredibly kind and intimate visit. One that made TJ feel special. That reassured his recovery and desire to play professional footy. One that reminded all of us that Canberra, led by TJ’s sporting heroes, had his back. That if reality was going to mess with my boy, it was messing with our entire city.

The overwhelming support from our community helped TJ manage infections, life-threatening injuries, countless procedures and his current reality of unwellness. Those footy players created something for him to hold onto. Something that no medical professional can do.

Don’t get me wrong, TJ is alive because of our superior rescue and medical teams. But our footy teams have a role to play too, and they deserve recognition for the roles they did play. They didn’t have to visit him, they didn’t have to part with such personal memorabilia, they didn’t have to hold his hand or wipe his sweat. They didn’t have to cater for his higher needs at games.

Christian Lealiifano

Christian Lealiifano wearing a wristband with TJ’s initials while playing for the Brumbies.

They didn’t have to do anything. But they did. They did it because they care about their community too. The same community we live, work and play in. The same community that will have their backs in the tough times and in the good.

I’m proud to be a member of the Brumbies and the Raiders. I was a member before the crash but will stay a member for life now. I’m especially proud to be wearing the green stuff this week as I did as a child in 1989 and 1990 when Ricky Stuart was on the other side of the white line.

So, as we watch our Green Machine prepare for the game of their lives this week, I encourage you to reflect on all the things these clubs do for our community. Get out your colours, Canberra, and let’s show them we’ve got their backs. Let’s go boys!

#RaidersMember4Life #GreenMachine #BleedGreen #GoRaiders

This week, TJ has been announced as one of the Woden Westfield Local Heroes. He’ll receive a $10,000 grant for The Canberra Hospital Foundation. It will be used to educate more young people about risk-taking behaviour.

Original Article published by Alanna Davis on The RiotACT.

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