Before 20-year old Tony Bonato suffered a devastating brain aneurysm in July last year, his family had little experience with the public hospital system. Twelve months later, with Tony again home, the family’s trauma is beginning to fade but their overwhelming gratitude has not.
In July 2019, the Sunshine Coast apprentice mechanic was leading a full life. Tony had spent the day training for his forklift licence before heading to bed with an unrepentant but manageable headache.
At the time, Tony was living with his grandparents, Manuel and Rosemary ‘Jay’ Armesto. The family name is well-known on the Sunshine Coast, where their road transport company has been based for the past fifty years.
The next morning, Tony collapsed with a massive brain aneurysm. He would not regain consciousness for another two weeks.
“Tony was rushed to Sunshine Coast University Hospital and I remember the social worker coming to me,” recalled Tony’s mother, Teresa De Winter.
“I said what do I need you for? Then it dawned. I looked at her and said my boy’s in trouble, isn’t he?”
Tony was airlifted to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) where surgeons worked until midnight to stabilise his condition.
Tony would remain in hospital for almost six months.
“Every time I saw him, I’d say, I love you,” said Teresa. “My husband would say, Tony, keep throwing those punches.”
Late last year, Grandparents Manuel and Rosemary ‘Jay’ Armesto contacted RBWH Foundation with an incredible gesture, donating $50,000 towards Intensive Care research.
“I’ve never been in a public hospital before for treatment and I was very happily surprised with the care that they gave the patients and especially my grandson,” said Manuel Armesto.
“I’d really like to thank all of the people that helped save Tony’s life."
RBWH Foundation CEO, Simone Garske, took that phone call from the Armesto family.
“Staff aren’t expecting that sort of recognition through philanthropy and I think it’s a vivid reminder of the deep and life-changing impact of the work they do,” said Simone Garske.
The ‘gentle giant’ of a teenager who entered hospital is now a 20-year old man. While his speech is currently limited, Tony is fully aware of his medical condition and is taking recovery in his stride.
“They say with recovery that you hit a plateau, but Tony hasn’t – he’s still climbing the mountain,” said Teresa.
“His goal is to go back to his normal life and I’m not going to let him lose sight of that.”