Radio personality Donna Lynch sat down with multiple amputee Matthew Ames to discuss family, faith and fatherhood.
Donna: Tell us about what happened back in 2012?
Matthew: In 2012, I became ill and thought it was the flu, man flu, sort of wondered whether or not I was complaining a little bit too much. But anyway, one thing turned to another and it turned out, I had an infection – Strep (streptococcal) A, infection, we get Strep throat.
Unfortunately for me, it went not so well. It went into my bloodstream and I ended up with sepsis.
So, (I had) a few trips to the doctor, but unfortunately they didn’t quite pick it up. And so (I) ended up in Mater Hospital and one thing led to another, and they tried to stem the infection and it didn’t work.
The only option they had left to save my life was to remove my limbs. So they removed my left limb, and unfortunately that didn’t stop it. And then, couple days later, they ended up removing my other three limbs with about a one per cent chance of survival – of getting through the surgery.
(I’m) pretty stubborn, still here. So … the last thing I remembered before that happened was really just talking to the triage nurse, and after that I went into a coma, induced coma, and woke up three weeks later with no arms and legs.
Donna: Well you strike me as a strong sort of a person, where do you get your strength from?
Matthew: I think probably from my upbringing and, you know my parents, I was given quite a lot of freedom and independence as a kid.
We moved around a fair bit, Fiji, North Queensland, Sydney, Brisbane, so you know changing schools, changing environments, and but also fairly close knit family group which was fantastic.
Donna: Tell us about your dad …
Matthew: My dad is one of a kind.
Donna: How many times do we hear that?
Matthew: Exactly. But he’s fantastic. He’s one of those people who has an endless source of energy and really also has this amazing ability to always back himself.
If he wants to do something and he doesn’t know how, he’ll just work out a way. And I think that’s a trait that fortunately I’ve received as well.
Donna: He’s obviously one of a kind, but you’ve got a sister that’s one of a kind too because you’ve written a book with your sister, what’s that about?
Matthew: So, we got approached by a number of people asking us about our story and saying that the things we’d shared today had helped them. So really we decided to write a book to share our story, to hopefully help other people who may be facing something difficult just as an outline of how we cope with the first year or two.
And so luckily, my sister, she can write. My wife Diane and I are both engineers, so it would’ve been dot points, a few pages, and that would’ve been it. So it was really great to trust somebody with my story.
Donna: How did you feel when you found out people around the world were praying for you?
Matthew: It’s amazing how the Catholic connections kind of kicked in and had all sorts of messages of support from all over the place.
It was a really reassuring to know that the humanity that you hope exists in the world is really there.
I’ve really been fortunate to experience that firsthand. It can be from all sorts of different areas, and you never quite know where it’s going to be but I think it’s quite a privilege to have experienced that.
Donna: As a dad, you’ve got three sons and a daughter, how have they coped with what’s happened to you? Do you think it’s made you and the family stronger?
Matthew:They’ve coped amazingly well. I think the thing Diane, my wife, and I, are proudest of through the last seven years is really creating an environment where we think the kids are pretty normal.
We have the same issues that everyone else has with teenage kids and young kids, so I think, yes, it’s certainly brought us together and we’ve gone through something extraordinary.
Donna: A lot of people say in a situation like you’ve had, that it just makes you realise how precious life is, would you agree with that?
Donna: Do you think people tend to not look at life as close as they should sometimes?
Matthew: I think everybody’s perspective is going to be different and I never purport to tell anyone what to do, but I think my experience has certainly taught me to really cherish every day.
I’m very fortunate to be here, and there’s no point in … I don’t worry about half the things I used to, but I do worry about lots of things I used to. Trying to put things into perspective is important.
Donna: Now I’ll just quote you here, you’ve said in the past, Matt, that you have a pretty, living acting relationship with God. What do you mean by that?
Matthew: I think, from a spirituality perspective, if I thought of God as a deity, I could sit there and go “And why did He do this or She do this to me?” But that’s not how I kind of process my spirituality.
I think from the experience I’ve had it has enabled me to really see that spirituality in people.
I see the day-to-day happenings of what moves people to do things. As I said, that’s kind of been a beautiful thing to experience.
Donna: Do you pray a lot and have you always?
Matthew: I do in my own way. I probably learned the art of slowing down a little bit.
I think the thing that probably has helped me the most was when something really difficult happened was really learning to accept what had happened to me.
And I think that reflection time is something that has really helped me do that.
Donna: Your wife Diane’s been a rock for you, hasn’t she?
Matthew: Yeah. Sometimes I feel a little bit guilty being in front of the cameras because I’m only here because of her.
And I think we need to think of all those people in our lives, like our dads or like Diane, who are the ones that help us be who we are. And give thanks to them.
Donna: How do you see yourself as a dad?
Matthew: Probably it’s a question to ask the kids, really. But … look, I think I’ve always been an active, involved dad. But I think before I became ill, I was probably a little bit too engrossed in my work time-wise.
When I was home I was home. But really, dragged away a fair bit.
And I knew I needed to kind of slow down and get more involved with the family – didn’t quite expect this was the way to do it.
But I think it’s really given me an opportunity and I knew what … I thought I knew what I was missing out on, but now having been able to spend a lot more time with the family and the kids, it’s really impressed on me the importance of that – the importance of connecting and spending time and just sitting and listening to my kids. So, I think that’s really been a blessing for all that’s happened to me. Actually, I think I’m able to be a better dad. I probably wouldn’t be otherwise.
Donna: Have you got any advice to dads?
Matthew: I think follow your heart. I think, as I said, I knew I needed to slow down and connect more.
It’s easy for me to say because it was forced on me to do that. But if you know you need to do something, just find a way to do it.
I think at the end of the day, it’s just those connections that we have with our kids that are the most important, and finding ways to develop those connections with those who are close to us.
And the kids are the most important thing in that, particularly on a day like Father’s Day.
The other thing that I think’s been really good is take a lead from our kids, as far as what they need, or how we can help them, by listening to them and following them.
Quite often I need to let my kids do things because I can’t, it’s just blown me away by the capability that they have, and I probably wouldn’t have thought they could do what they can.
But, yeah, they’re amazing, special kids and all kids are, so follow their lead and follow your heart.
Donna: You’re a special dad, so thank you for talking to us.
Matthew: Thanks Donna, it’s been a pleasure.