Jonelle Colabufalo

My heart was broken never to be repaired…

I’m standing here in front of you today to tell you about my brother Jared. He should be the one here doing this presentation as he was a presenter with TRAG before he became number 37 of our Road Toll in 2013.

What happened to Jared demonstrates how one tiny second can change your life forever. Unfortunately for Jared and all of us who loved him, it happened to him twice.

Jared was a victim of road trauma when he was only 7 years old.

Jared was a bright and happy 7 year old, he could have done anything he chose to do. He had a great family, great group of friends, his opportunities in life were unlimited.

He was doing well at school, was talented at sport and was a high achiever at a very young age.

November 15, 1988, three o clock came, Mum picked Jared and I up from school and we were going to our weekly gymnastics class in Dandenong. We parked across the road from the gym’s entrance and stood alongside the road, waiting to cross.

It was the next few seconds that were to change not only Jared’s life but the lives of his family and friends forever.

Being eager to get inside and start his class, he let go of Mum’s hand and began to run across the road. Before making it half way across the road, a car came speeding through and collected him on its bonnet. All I remember from that moment is my Mum’s horrific scream as she watched her son hit the car’s bonnet – he was knocked unconscious and landed 50 metres up the road.

Our lives were to be changed forever. Everyone thinks “it will never happen to me”, how wrong we were!

The next 4 weeks are a blur. Jared was rushed to the Dandenong Hospital in an ambulance only to find out that the staff gave him no hope of survival as he had brain injuries that they couldn’t treat. But he was transferred to the Royal Children’s Hospital for the more specialised doctors to deliver a final decision as to whether he was going to live…… or die…..

He arrived at the Children’s Hospital and was rushed into the Operating Theatre immediately. A team of doctors spent over 4 hours working on him, trying to stop the bleeding inside his head.

After surviving the operation, he spent another 3 weeks in the Intensive Care Unit in a coma, on life support with his family and friends keeping a 24 hour vigil by his bed, hoping he would show some sign of life.

After 1 week, the doctors told our family that he would never wake up. The doctors even turned off the life support machines, but Jared was a fighter and began to breathe so the machines were turned back on.

After spending another 61/2 weeks in the hospital ward, seeing doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and physios on a daily basis, Jared returned home. It was then that we all realised how much life had changed not just for Jared but for all of us.

This single event had changed our lives forever. An innocent mistake had changed the course of Jared’s life in such a way.

Imagine having to go back and learn everything again.

If you had to learn to talk again, Or how to walk again, Learn how to sit in a chair, Feed yourself.

Even 24 years later, Jared was still affected in many ways and would always have been, but it could all have been prevented. What if the driver of the car hadn’t been speeding, they may have been able to stop in time. This may have given him a shock, but he probably wouldn’t have been harmed.

Imagine how that person must have felt when they hit him.

Whilst Jared survived that car accident, his life was greatly affected. He had brain damage which affected his judgement and ability to concentrate. This affected him academically and meant that he could not do all of the things in his life which he would ideally have liked to do. He was also affected physically with a weakness in his left side which meant that he could not pursue all of his sporting ambitions. Even 24 years later he was still driving to weekly physio rehab sessions and specialist appointments for treatments. So, it is not just about whether you survive road trauma, it is about how much it can affect your life if you do survive. It is also about how much it affects those around you – My Mum gave up work for many years to be a full time carer to Jared and dedicated her life to rehabilitating him – in the early days she was running Jared to appointments everyday and teaching him to do everything for himself again. I also grew up very quickly as my whole family’s life changed and I realised how precious life was very early.

As I said, if this presentation was 5 years ago, Jared would have been the one here on this stage telling you his story and the challenges which that one single moment gave him for the rest of his life. You would have seen a young man who overcame so many challenges to actually live a remarkable but very challenging life. But unbelievably for all of us, Jared was struck by road trauma again.

Friday 22nd February 2013. My second son Makai was 11 days old and my husband and I and our two boys were at the hairdressers for our eldest son Kalen who was almost 2 to have his first haircut. My phone rang and it was my Mum – I knew as soon as she spoke that something was not right. Jared had been participating in a charity bike ride around Geelong for the week and was on his final morning of the ride. Just a few kilometres to go of the 600km ride.

Mum & Dad were already in Geelong and were going to be there at the end to greet the riders.

There had been an accident, a truck was involved and the police were on their way to see Mum & Dad to tell them more about it. Looking back now, I should have known that this was a very bad sign but I thought “we will all band together and get him through this again” I straight away made plans to get organised and get myself to Geelong so that I could start looking after Jared and fix whatever was wrong with him and bring him home.

We drove back to our house and just after we arrived home my husband’s phone rang and all I remember is the shocked look on his face and the word’s “he’s gone….”

The cyclists were riding in single file on a narrow stretch of divided road, Jared was second in line and his foot slipped as a large truck and trailer was driving past. That single second ended his life within minutes.

Our lives will never be the same again. I can’t go back and fix this and bring Jared back. Jared was my other half in life from the start, we were a pair – I called him Boy and he called me Girl. Now it is just me. When people ask me how many siblings I have, I don’t know how to answer them….

My four beautiful children have lost an Uncle who loved them more than anything. Jared was desperate for my oldest son Kalen to grow big enough to be able to kick the soccer ball around with him in the back yard. Now I watch him playing with the soccer ball and my eyes fill with tears for all of those happy moments that Jared will not be a part of in my kids lives.

The last text message I received from Jared was a reply to a photo I had sent him of Kalen having his first ride on his bike “You’ll be up next to your Uncle in no time. Thanks for putting a smile on my face mate”. Jared was so excited to see Kalen on a bike that he phoned me after that message and we had a chat about how his ride was going and how much he looked forward to seeing me and the boys on the weekend. It was never to be….

Since we lost Jared we have welcomed 2 new babies into our family. What should be such a happy time is tinged with such sadness because I know that Jared will never meet my two youngest children, I wont get a photo of Uncle Jared’s first cuddle. In the last 5 years we have had many happy memories and occasions but I always feel such sadness at some point during those celebrations because my big brother should be there, he should be a part of it, its just so unfair.

You always hear these tragic stories of people losing loved ones and think it will never happen to you. I especially thought it wouldn’t happen to Jared as he had already gone through and overcome so much. But life can be unfair and a split second can change your life forever. It only took just one slip of Jared’s foot for his life to end. So when you get behind that steering wheel to drive a car, you need to ensure you are prepared.

One split second really can change the life of you, your family and your friends.

I don’t want any of you to experience road trauma. I don’t want any of your friends or family to have to feel the pain that I feel everyday when I think about the fact that I will never see Jared’s smile, hear his voice or see him hug my kids. Please make the right choices when getting into a car whether you’re the driver or the passenger.

Jared used to come home from doing a TRAG Presentation and say “If I just saved the life of one person today then it will have been worth it”, please take the time to think about your actions – Put your mobile phones away, watch out for cyclists and pedestrians and make sure that your attention while you are driving is 100% on what you are doing.

Most of you will be getting your licenses soon. Some of you may already have them. Next time you’re on the road, driving the car or learning to drive on your L plates, think about what you are doing and the responsibility you’ve accepted and…

drive 4 life