"You could see the fear on Julian's face"

Mike Gee got the fright of his life when he returned home from gym just before dinner on Tue 24th Nov 2015.The 76 year old from Whangamata walked through to the family’s living room at about 4.50pm. Alison, his wife and sweetheart of more than 50 years, was bending over Julian, their 42 year old son, who was unable to get up and unable to speak. Julian was in the throes of a severe seizure. Alison found him, after resting from recent hip surgery.

Julian was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on Anzac Day 2011 while living in Australia. He was 36 years old at the time.Mike and Alison are proud of the way their son has never let his condition get in the way of his love of fitness and exercise. Julian has faced many obstacles in life. Despite having suffered some neurological damage to his brain, he, like his Dad, has always kept in incredibly good shape.

To see Julian so incapacitated was a complete shock to Alison. She was relieved when Mike returned home. “I made sure Julian wasn’t swallowing his tongue, but I was pretty limited in what I could do,” she recalls. Mike called 111. “You could see the fear on Julian’s face,” Alison says, “we were all scared.”

They’d never encountered anything like this before and wondered if he was having a stroke. “He couldn’t answer me, he’d couldn’t understand me and, then, he was gone,” Mike says. “He just had this look in his eyes,” Alison says.

St John arrived in next to no time. “They determined that the window of opportunity to help Julian was closing,” says Mike, “He had to be airlifted to hospital fast! Julian was loaded into the back of the ambulance and driven to the helicopter pad in the middle of town, to await the Westpac Rescue Helicopter’s arrival.

Mike and Alison followed by car. The family’s GP and Senior Nurse had also arrived. “They were all working on Julian in the ambulance when he had another full-on seizure,” Mike says. Thanks to the quick-thinking and skill of all the medical professionals involved that day, including the Westpac 2 crew, who arrived in 28 minutes, Julian was stabilised and airlifted to Waikato Hospital.

“It was when he was airlifted away that it dawned on us just how serious his condition was,” Mike says, “I suddenly realised he could have died.” Mike was charged with getting Alison home, who couldn’t drive because of her hip operation. That’s when she turned to him and said, in a few short words, “You can’t go without me!” The couple were soon on their way.

Julian would spend six nights in hospital. “They did lumber punctures, MRIs, ultrasounds… they were so very thorough,” Alison says, “The diagnosis came back that it wasn’t a stroke at all, but a seizure, a myoclonic seizure, related to his Multiple Sclerosis. They think exercise may have triggered it.”

The doctors were impressed with Julian’s excellent health. Julian’s strength returned and he was soon pushing his Mum in her wheelchair around the hospital. “I had to say, ‘Stop it Julian’”, Alison laughs, “’Not so fast!’”

With the proper medication, Julian’s seizures haven’t returned and he can continue enjoying his exercise. Julian is back to his fit and cheerful self. Julian proudly refers to everyone involved in his rescue as his “life savers”. “They saved my life,” he says. 

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