STANDING, walking, speaking the names of his loved ones — these are things Tapping truck driver Paul Mitchell couldn’t do a matter of weeks ago.
They’re small things for most of us, but significant steps for Paul since he was felled by an alleged coward punch outside a Hillarys pub on July 22, hitting his head on the pavement and suffering a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.
His family feared the worst, but Paul has slowly been improving and though the celebrations were put on hold, he was awake and alert to ring in his 29th birthday from his hospital bed last week.
After the seizures he was having stopped, Paul was transferred to Fiona Stanley Hospital this week to start his rehabilitation, which his family expect will take months.
His brother, Ben Mitchell, said though his younger brother had not needed surgery, he was now deaf in his right ear, which was likely to be permanent, and had suffered facial nerve damage.
“His rehab will retrain him how to speak, read and write again — as much as his injury will allow anyway … we are unsure at what point his recovery will stop and he will need to adapt to his new way of life as he may have an element of permanent damage. Rehab might not completely fix him,” Ben said.
Presently, Paul is struggling to communicate and cannot speak or read more than just a few words.
“At first it was just sort of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, or a nod or shake of the head … he can now say my name, mum, dad, his fiancee Kim’s, sometimes a few swear words as well,” Ben said.
“He’s still pretty well all there inside. It must be frustrating for him because you can see him trying to grasp words and he can’t quite get it out.”
Ben said the family was acutely aware how lucky his brother was and credit the friend he was with that night at the North Shore Tavern on Whitfords Avenue with helping save his life.
“We’re lucky he’s still even here,” he said. “If it wasn’t for his friend who was with him that night he might not be here. (The friend) was saying Paul wanted to go home and go to bed after it happened. And he said, ‘No, we’re taking you to the hospital’. We’re glad he did that because you’re not supposed to go to sleep when you take a big head knock like that.”
Ben said his brother’s doctors have not been able to commit to any guarantees about his recovery.
Ben started an online crowdfunding campaign for Paul, who is likely to be out of work for a lengthy time, which has already attracted nearly $10,000 in donations. He said the community response had “restored his faith in humanity a little bit”.
Balcatta man Andre Kevin Smith, 33, faced Joondalup Magistrates Court for the first time this week, charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Mitchell.
He has yet to enter a plea and was bailed to reappear in court in November.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Paul.