It has been a long 14 months since a mosquito-borne viral infection devastated WA police officer Ryan Marron's life - but it appears he has finally found his voice.
It may only be a hoarse, whispered growl but his father Tom is delighted and laughs as his son mouths the word "Tommy".
"He never called me Dad. It was always, 'How's it going, Tommy'," Mr Marron said. "I haven't heard him speak so clearly, so this is a eureka moment for sure."
Two months into six months of intensive therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the Albany-raised constable is making slow but steady progress as he recovers from Murray Valley encephalitis.
He can stand by himself for about seven seconds at a time and has been working at improving functions such as swallowing, body movements and walking in a harness.
"He's progressing," Mr Marron said. "Just this morning he spoke a little bit more. He found a gruffness in his voice which actually turned it on. It's all little steps."
Const. Marron proudly wears his police uniform to the therapy session, complete with heavy boots.
He asked his father to shave him before wearing it so he would not breach police regulations by having a beard while in uniform.
Mr Marron said his son and their family had received tremendous support from WA and Chicago police.
Not that Const. Marron's time in Chicago has been without setbacks. It has been an emotional few days for him after his partner Toni Misitano headed back to Perth for a two-month break, and he misses her badly.
It is the first time they have been apart since they started their relationship, and since she left Const. Marron has struggled to get through the gruelling, repetitive physiotherapy sessions.
Mr Marron has travelled from his Albany home to Chicago to step into the breach while Ms Misitano is away, and he is pleased at the progress his son is making, but conscious of the long road ahead.
"The transition from Toni going to me coming has been very, very hard to the point he lost a bit of weight and wasn't eating," he said.
"He's had a week of a bit of solace and soul-searching but since the realisation that Toni will be back in two months, we're back on track."
Ms Misitano said yesterday they had finally raised the $800,000 needed to pay for Const. Marron's six months of treatment in Chicago, largely thanks to a $400,000 grant from the State Government and an estimated $300,000 raised by 400 cyclists on a sponsored 800km bike ride on the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley last month.Const. Marron's next major goal is to be at the airport, standing with a bunch of flowers in his hand when Toni returns to Chicago.