Parents’ worst nightmare
A PHONECALL from a relative to Leongatha’s Daniel Riccardi saying “there had been a nasty car accident involving members of your family” was the start of a harrowing three weeks for his family.
On a normal Saturday afternoon on February 10, Daniel was going about his usual business, running the family’s two shops in Leongatha.
His wife Anna and two of their three children Mattea, 8, and Julian, 4, as well as Anna’s mother Nancy, were attending a basketball tournament in Warragul, where Mattea was representing Leongatha Basketball Association’s Under 10 Lightning team.
Mattea was the driving force behind the Under 10 Girls wearing team tattoos for the Warragul tournament.
On the way home, a car appeared from nowhere and slammed into the side of Anna’s car.
Anna was able to get out of the car but all other passengers sustained injuries. Mattea was in a critical condition and Julian was in a serious state. Nancy sustained fractured ribs.
By the time Daniel arrived at the scene near Drouin, emergency services personnel were working on the injured. Mattea was not moving. She had a blood transfusion and once stabilised, she and Julian were airlifted to the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Mattea’s injuries included multiple internal injuries, a broken hip, punctured lung, a dislocated bone in her neck, torn ligaments in her neck, and swelling on the brain.
Mattea was placed in an induced coma for stabilisation and a team of surgeons were brought in to operate, with Mattea’s parents briefed on what procedures needed to be performed.
Julian sustained a fractured eye socket and was also operated on at the children’s hospital.
Late last week, Mattea was smiling and talking, but still has a long journey to go. She has a halo around her neck but was fortunate no vertebrae were broken and she has avoided paralysis.
She has just been moved into a wheelchair and can go for little trips around the hospital with her mother Anna, who has been by her side. She still has a feeding tube but it is hoped she will be able to take in more food soon.
Mattea faces at least six to eight weeks of rehabilitation before she is walking normally.
Julian has been discharged and is home with his father. Youngest daughter Natalia has been upset by the whole ordeal and has only just recently started attending her Grade One class at St Laurence’s Primary School in Leongatha.
Daniel said he has been blown away not only by the support of the wider Leongatha community, but also the care of the Royal Children’s Hospital.
“The community has been fantastic. I have had a lot of people coming into the shop to ask how everything is and others have been offering assistance in the shop. My family and friends have been very supportive and I thank them very much,” he said.
“The Royal Children’s Hospital has been absolutely fantastic; they have done everything possible for the children. They also assigned a social worker to me so they could look after all the other details like insurance and emergency accommodation.
“Once we are through all this, I would really like to have a big event in Leongatha as a big fundraiser for the hospital.”
The Leongatha Basketball Association has set up an account to help the Riccardi family cope with ongoing travel, medical and other costs, so Daniel and Anna can spend time with their children’s recovery.
If you wish to donate you can deposit money in this account: Riccardi Family Fund, BSB:013705, A/c 414864968. Deposits can also be made in person at ANZ Bank, Leongatha.
A major raffle is being organised for the family. Donations of goods or vouchers can be left at Sportfirst, Henriettas or McCartin Street Optometrists. Tickets will go on sale in the community soon.
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