A five-year-old boy has miraculously survived falling off a moving tractor and getting swept up underneath its powerful blades.
Carmelo Vella's scalp was torn open during the freak accident last Monday, which left him with a broken jaw, ligament damage in his neck and friction burns on his body.
The young boy was on his family farm in Londonderry, on Sydney's western outskirts, where he lives with his parents and three siblings. He was with a family member enjoying a routine farm ride collecting garlic for the market the next day. "It's a daily thing the kids do from a very young age," only this time it was different, his mum Charlene told Yahoo News Australia.
Ms Vella explained they'd hit a bump and he wasn't holding on properly, forcing him to fall backwards. The five-year-old fell straight into the attached potato digger which was still moving at the time. "My heart stopped. I thought I lost my child," Ms Vella said. She was inside the house at the time. "I ran outside and my husband said 'we're off to hospital, I don't want you seeing him in this bad state'," she said.
Carmelo arrived at Hawkesbury Hospital which was just minutes from their home. But his injuries were "quite serious" Ms Vella said they were told, and he was taken to Sydney's Westmead Children's Hospital. On arriving, he was rushed into surgery to staple his skull back together and has since had two more operations, one to put a plate in his jaw and another to treat an infection.
"He was fully conscious. He was in shock and obviously screaming in pain," Ms Vella said. "He remembers the whole thing."
Carmelo expected to make full recovery
Carmelo's parents were supposedly told by doctors he shouldn't be alive. But thankfully, he is expected to make a full recovery. Carmelo is now forced to wear a full-body brace for the next few months to help his body heal. And while he will be okay eventually, he's "mentally struggling", Ms Vella said.
Ms Vella said riding tractors and farming is like "second nature" to the kids. "We've grown up in the farming industry," she said. The mum of four and her husband run an agricultural and mechanical business but have had to stop work for now.
'Just recovered' from series of tragic blows
The accident is another tragic blow for the family who have already had it tough. "We've just recovered from three major floods out at the Hawkesbury, in the Nepean region. Obviously, Covid and I also had a challenging pregnancy," she said. Ms Vella, whose other kids are 4, 2 and 3 months, has been told she can't have any more children after all four of her pregnancies came with significant complications.
"When I fall pregnant, my body can't handle it, so it starts deteriorating. The last pregnancy I ended up with eclampsia — where high blood pressure results in seizures during pregnancy — and was admitted into ICU," she explained. Her baby was born at 30 weeks and stayed in the hospital for three months. The pregnancy before that landed her on full bedrest, she explained. "I couldn't even look after my kids because my body was struggling."
The devastated mum said it had "taken a toll on us" but she and her husband had "got their lives back on track" until Carmelo's accident sent them spiralling once more.
Teneil Holland, a friend of the family, is attempting to raise money for them to help get them through this time. "The Vellas need some love and support with a lot of appointments coming up for their brave little guy," she wrote on the GoFundMe page. So far, more than $6000 has been raised, surpassing the original $2000 target. But Ms Vella said only part of this will go towards Carmelo's recovery and the rest will be donated.
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