Brenden Hall was dead. He was six and, like a lot of six-year-olds, he caught a dose of the chickenpox. Unlike most six-year-olds, he was suddenly lying in a hospital, flatlining, while his parents were forced to make the decision between life and limb. Hall had reacted so severely to the virus that he had spent six weeks in hospital and developed DVT – deep vein thrombosis – in his right leg as a result. His condition worsened with multiple organ failures.Then he was gone. For 29 minutes.
“It was during December, 1999,” Hall said. “I sort of just finished grade one and I contracted chicken pox, I got DVT in my lower right limb.
“They (the hospital) rang my parents up and said, ‘You better get in here, we’ve got a decision to make’. “It was either my leg or my life, because the day before, I’d flatlined for about 29min, roughly. “I was in cardiac arrest for 29min in hospital before they decided to take my leg off, due to the blood clot because it was in one of the main veins going back to my heart.”
Hall was saved, brought back from the dead. He had his life, but he had lost his right leg and much of his hearing. Apart from those small details, nothing had changed for the Queenslander; he was swimming before fate struck and he planned to swim again, as soon as possible. “I’d just started swimming competitively before I lost my limb,” he said.
“As soon as I lost it, I wanted to get straight back into it, I wanted to get back in the pool, I wanted to get back to school, back to my mates. “I worked towards (Beijing) and got there in the end, but the real goal was London. Now I’ve been here and done it, it’s a lot of hard work paid off.”
Hall this week marked a major milestone in his dramatic journey, winning 400m S9 Paralympic gold in world record time. He did not just win, he obliterated both the field – he won by more than seven seconds – and the previous mark, also held by him and which he trumped by almost four seconds. It was the 19-year-old’s second gold, after his role in the 4x100m freestyle relay and more could be on the way.He had his 50m freestyle overnight, races the heats of his 200m individual medley tomorrow night, and finishes with the 100m freestyle and backstroke competitions on Friday.
“Thank God my parents made the right choice, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today swimming,” Hall said. “Unfortunately, it was a bit of a rare type of thing to happen, but it is quite possible.”I had a specialist come over from Canada onto my case, because (the doctors here) hadn’t seen anything like it before, but they had a case overseas.
“Two months later, because of my case, they brought the chicken pox vaccine out to Australia to start distributing for kids.”It’s (chickenpox) something for kids to experience, but there definitely are those rare situations behind it that you don’t want to risk.”