Vicki Haddon (formerly Vicki Poulton) with her children, daughter Jorja Haddon, 8, and son Jackson Haddon, 11, at Lake Illawarra. Picture: DAVE TEASE Her struggle documented in the Mercury.
Twenty-two years ago, Vicki Haddon didn’t know whether she would live or die.
However, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of strangers who donated $40,000 to send her to the United States for a life-saving brain operation, she celebrated her 40th birthday yesterday.
Surrounded by her family at her Lake Illawarra home, Mrs Haddon reflected on the tumultuous months when her life hung in the balance due to a massive brain haemorrhage.
Then named Vicki Poulton and living in Nowra, Mrs Haddon was 18 in October 1990 when a congenital brain abnormality caused a vessel to rupture in her brain.
After two months in hospital, doctors said she would need an operation but conventional surgery was too risky.
The only option was a $40,000 laser operation not available in Australia at the time.
“I was about to do my HSC and then all of a sudden I had a brain haemorrhage and a 90 per cent chance of coming out of a brain operation in Sydney without proper brain function,” Mrs Haddon said.
“Back then I didn’t ever think I would turn 40.”
But, thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Illawarra and Shoalhaven residents, Mrs Haddon went on to thrive.
The campaign to raise $40,000 for her operation started at the Shoalhaven Paper Mill, where her father Graeme Poulton worked.
Then Illawarra Mercury editor Peter Cullen heard of Mrs Haddon’s plight and ran dozens of stories celebrating the grassroots fund-raising efforts, including barbecues, cake drives and bucket collections all over the region.
He also got behind a fund-raising dinner held at the Lagoon restaurant.
Within five weeks the Save Vicki Poulton Fund had raised more than enough to send her to the US for surgery.
Looking back yesterday, Mrs Haddon said she owed everything to people who got behind her campaign.
“I have had two beautiful children since then – Jackson who is 11 and Jorja who is eight – so I’ve been able to start a family and enjoy seeing my children grow up,” she said.
“I’ve been travelling, we’ve purchased a home here in the Illawarra and I’ve got a great husband.
“It’s basically a whole life I never expected to have.”
Mrs Haddon said she was also grateful to have been able to use her experience to help others, because leftover funds from her trust were donated to Wollongong Hospital children’s ward in 2003.
“I was so happy that people got behind me and helped with my situation, and I’m so glad that with the leftover money I was able to give back to the community.”
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