IT WAS the accident which shocked harness racing fans throughout the nation.
Gary and Joedy Whitaker were enjoying some quality family time at the Redcliffe meeting on March 24, 2019 when they were struck by the mobile gate’s arm as they stood behind the fence to watch the next race on the card.
In what was described as “horrific scenes”, the Whitakers’ two children were both rushed to hospital.
Two-year-old Lara suffered severe facial and internal injuries, with Josh receiving non-life threatening injuries, which included a fractured skull.
Gary who was holding Lara was struck first, which shielded the toddler slightly from the impact with doctors later stating that minor protection saved her life.
“If the main impact was a centimetre further up at the front of her skull it would likely have killed her or certainly left her badly brain damaged,” said Doctor Gert Tollesson from the Queensland Children’s Hospital.
“It is miraculous she didn’t suffer a bleeding brain and when she was woken from her induced coma she was bright and alert.”
Josh was released from hospital reasonably quickly, however, Lara remained in critical condition while also undergoing several surgeries.
It took seven weeks before Lara was permitted to go home.
“Two very happy little children and two ecstatic parents,” Joedy said at the time. “We are home!
“There is still a long road ahead of us, but we are home and can start to work on some normality.”
A year after the life-changing moment, Joedy is thrilled to report little Lara is progressing better than anticipated.
“She is going along really well,” Joedy said. “In November she had surgery for tear duct reconstruction where they inserted drainage tubes, then last month she had surgery again to remove the tubes.
“Overall she has had five surgeries and been knocked out a couple more times for MRI’s.
“Hopefully there will be no more surgeries now until she is a teenager when she may need facial reconstruction once she has stopped growing.
“At the moment we are waiting on referrals to a speech pathologist and psychologist though as she’s getting stuck with words at the moment.
“It could be age-related but the rehab team are concerned it is more and want to get onto it.
“Josh is going great guns but he only had a fracture and bruising on the brain.”
Reflecting on the one-year anniversary of the incident Joedy prefers to look at the positives and small goals such as Lara’s hair growing back.
“We all went to hospital in different ambulances and I truly didn’t know if Lara was alive,” Joedy said. “I didn’t know what to expect when I got to the Queensland Children’s Hospital.
“We are thankful about how lucky we are to have her…it could have been a lot worse.
“Lara’s hair getting lot longer, it’s not quite ready to be cut off at the same length, but she can have pigtails again.
“It’s been a hard year but we are all doing as well as possible and have our family as one.”