Staff member in Cath Lab in scrubsStaff in scrubs in the Cath LabStaff in scrubs in the Cath Lab


Father and son receive care at Royal Talbot - 20 years apart

31 March 2021

AJ Sutton was only 8-years-old when his father Gary Sutton had a truck accident that led to quadriplegia.

“I’d wake up and AJ would be beside my hospital bed,” says Gary. 

Growing up, AJ wanted to be a truck driver just like his dad. In an unfortunate twist of fate, AJ also had major truck accident last year.

“We had our truck accidents 20 years, four months and two days apart,” says Gary.

 AJ was intubated at the scene and was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. 

“It was the worst few hours of my life,” says Gary. 

The Sutton family were extremely relieved to find out that AJ survived the accident. 

Both Gary and AJ have received care at Royal Talbot and have even been cared for by some of the same staff, including Director of Victorian Spinal Cord Services, Dr Andrew Nunn. 

“Dr Andrew Nunn cared for me, and now he’s also caring for AJ.

“Andrew has been amazing in looking after AJ and has really helped keep our family informed of his progress,” says Gary.

AJ’s sisters Bec and Shannara explain that when they learned that AJ would also be a quadriplegic they had a sense of acceptance, as they already knew what it’s like to have a family member with the same condition.

“Life’s not over, it’s just different,” says Bec.

“We were in a unique situation to have already experienced this growing up with dad.

“I want more people to know that being in a wheelchair doesn’t stop you from living your life,” she says

The family also credit the Telehealth technology in helping them remain involved in AJ’s care throughout the pandemic. 

“Even though we couldn’t be there, we didn’t miss any of the important consultations due to Telehealth.

“It was especially hard for AJ’s mum Karen as she lives in New South Wales, but Telehealth did help her feel involved and informed,” says Gary.

During his time at Royal Talbot, AJ has also overcome some major challenges.

“I was frustrated. I didn’t want people to push me around in a wheelchair, I wanted to have control myself. Then my dad looked at me and said you can move your hand a bit, that means you can drive a wheelchair,” AJ says.

“From that moment I worked with the Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists and was able to learn how to drive my own wheelchair. That really changed things for me.”

AJ is currently working with rehabilitation staff to further assess him for nerve and tendon transplant surgery at Austin Health. This surgery could help him regain more function in his hands.

“My goal is to be able to use my hands and arms more freely, and to live more independently,” he says.