Matthew Hayes is a caring, funny young man who used to spend his time travelling the world doing what he loved.
His work as an audio technician took him all over the globe, from Hawaii to Brazil, London and Mallorca.
He was living his dream. He worked on world tennis tournaments, cricket and performing arts events.
In London he even worked in an operating theatre where they performed facial surgery for a show called How to Look Good Naked.
“He told me ‘I wouldn’t recommend it mum’,” Matt’s mother Margaret Gabbedy-Hayes said.
But about two years ago their lives changed forever after a fall in a hotel bathtub left Matt with bleeding on his brain.
“He slipped and hit his head on the bath is what we think has happened,” Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said.
Two days after the fall Matt was due to catch a flight out of Houston.
Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said she spoke to him a few hours before the flight and told him to call from the airport.
When that call didn’t come she began to get anxious. Matt’s pre-flight ritual had always included a phone call home to let his mum know he was OK, about two hours before his flight.
After not receiving the call Ms Gabbedy-Hayes tried to reach Matt on his mobile phone, but when she wasn’t able to she became worried.
She managed to contact the hotel where Matt was staying which led to him being discovered unconscious on the floor.
“Within those two hours he had collapsed with bleeding on the brain and multiple strokes and that is all we know,” Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said.
Matt’s condition required a one month stay in intensive care followed by a two months of rehabilitation while in the United States.
Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said as soon as she heard about the incident she travelled to the US to support her son.
As soon as Ms Gabbedy-Hayes heard about the incident she travelled to the US with the support of a family friend Renzo Turale.
“On the way over my tummy was like acid, actually, not knowing what I was going to find,” Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said.
“I went over for seven weeks and stayed . He was on life support.”
A GoFundMe campaign organised by a friend from Melbourne raised enough money for Ms Gabbedy-Hayes and Matt to return to Australia.
After a further six months in hospital he appeared to be making good progress and had moved in with his mother at Burnie.
“Back in February, March last year he was standing, sitting and walking up to 600 metres with a high frame by himself. He came home to me in July,” Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said.
“By November he was doing pretty much everything for himself.
“He had started to write again even though it was shaking – he wrote me a birthday card last year to thank me for everything.”
But within six months Matt developed severe tremors which left him unable to stand or walk without help.
He now needs specialist brain surgery in Melbourne which is expected to cost $35,000.
“The neurologists have suggested a guided ultrasound in Melbourne, which is going to be difficult getting into Victoria and back home again,” Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said.
“If that doesn’t work there is another one which they call deep brain stimulation which is about $70,000, so hopefully we won’t need that one.”
Payment for her son’s surgery was a concern, until a chance meeting led her to a group willing to help.
Enter the Masons
A Freemason friend of Ms Gabbedy-Hayes’ brother, Dough Gabbedy, suggested they reach out and explain Matt’s situation. Little did Mr Gabbedy know the not so secret society has three levels of benevolence within the organisation.
Each provides support for people in need in different ways.
Stewart Freeman AM is the Worshipful Master of the Burnie Masonic Lodge.
It is about us preparing ourselves to go through life attempting to be better men everyday
He said nothing the society does is kept secret – except their handshake.
Mr Freeman said their aim was to take good men and make them better.
“It is about us preparing ourselves to go through life attempting to be better men everyday,” Mr Freeman said.
“We went up and met Matthew, had a chat, did a bit of digging to make sure everything was above board.”
After meeting Matt the Burnie Masonic Lodge decided to help and donated $5000 from the North-West arm of the Freemasons.
A further $10,000 was donated at a state level by the organisation.
But seeing as that wasn’t enough Mr Freeman also helped set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise the rest of the money.
“My lodge decided to open a GoFundMe page to see if we could get Matthew the money he needed… which as of [Saturday] had $22,000 in it,” Mr Freeman said.
With the money from the GoFundMe and the donations from the Freemasons, enough money has now been raised for Matt to get the surgery he needs.
But Mr Freeman is not satisfied with just paying for the surgery. He hopes to cover the travel and accommodation costs too so Matt’s mum can comfortably support him through the journey.
“They’ll need to be able to travel across to Melbourne, they’ll need accommodation and ongoing hospital costs,” he said.
What happens next
Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said she has been blown away by the level of support they have received from the community.
She said donations had come from friends, family, old school friends of Matt and his brother Andrew, and even her former students and their parents.
“I have been speechless at the generosity and so grateful, so appreciative,” Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said.
“We have had so much support from friends and family it has just been amazing.
“The donations came in even from children I taught in grade one which would have been more than 20 years ago.”
Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said Matt had maintained all of his charisma despite the difficulties he’s faced.
She said he is still the funny, loving son she has always had.
“He has got a wicked sense of humour. He’s got a lovely personality and he is good company even though it is very difficult for him at the moment,” Ms Gabbedy-Hayes.
With the money now raised for Matt’s surgery, it is a matter of getting him to Melbourne for the operation.
He has got a wicked sense of humour. He’s got a lovely personality and he is good company even though it is very difficult for him at the moment
Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said the sooner Matt could have the operation, the better.
But she said the donations had made a world of difference.
“Matthew wasn’t covered privately, he is now. But the sooner we can get something done about the tremors the better, because he is getting worse,” Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said.
The process has been complicated by the recent second wave of COVID-19 which is sweeping across Victoria.
All elective surgery, except category one procedures, have been cancelled due to the outbreaks.
Travel to and from Victoria has also been restricted further to help mitigate the risk of a second wave spreading to Tasmania.
In an address on Friday Premier Peter Gutwein said people would still be able to travel for compassionate reasons, but the bar to do so would be set higher.
On Thursday Health Minister Sarah Courtney said people who needed to travel for life saving medical care would still be allowed in and out of Tasmania.
She said the government were working with other states around ways of providing care which may not be available in Melbourne, due to the cancellation of elective surgery.
“We know that there are a very small proportion of Tasmanians that do seek surgery interstate and I know that this is a very challenging time for those people and their families,” Ms Courtney said.
“Urgent or emergency care is still able to be sought interstate so we still have the capacity to do that.”
Ms Courtney said Tasmanians who are concerned should contact their GP or specialist.
“If any Tasmanian is concerned about their situation and what it means to them or a loved one I’d urge them to speak to their GP or speak to their specialists and we’ll look at what options can be explored to be able to get the care that you need,” she said.
The sooner we can get something done about the tremors the better, because he is getting worse
Matt and his mum have also received help from the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which has allowed them to make their family home more accessible.
“I have had wonderful support from the support workers and the NDIS,” Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said.
The support has allowed doorways to be widened and has also provided support workers to help take care of Matt. .
Ms Gabbedy-Hayes said it was a waiting game to see when her son would be able to travel to Victoria for his much needed operation.
“They think perhaps they could do it early September, but there is no date,” she said.
“We still have to have another MRI then we will go from there.”
So far 160 people have donated with donation amounts ranging from $20 to $2000.