Thomas 'TJ' Campagna determined to return to footy field after horror Kings Highway crash

TJ Campagna has been in hospital since December 19 but is determined to get back on the footy field as soon as possible. Photo: Karleen Minney
TJ Campagna has been in hospital since December 19 but is determined to get back on the footy field as soon as possible. Photo: Karleen Minney

While most kids are busy planning their next school holiday adventure, Jerrabomberra’s Thomas Campagna is just looking forward to not having cords sticking out of him anymore.

Thomas, or TJ, has been in Canberra Hospital since he was airlifted from the wreckage of a horror crash on the Kings Highway on December 19.

Despite suffering a perforated bowel, broken ribs, a collapsed lung and muscle damage similar to having a caesarean section, the 13-year-old representative rugby player is determined to not only get back to normal life but back on the field.

While his mother Alanna Davis, who was also injured in the crash, describes TJ's recovery process she can't get more than a few words out before TJ interjects to give a shorter time frame.

TJ's mother Alanna Davis said she's noticed real improvements in recent days in her son's condition. Photo: Karleen Minney

TJ's mother Alanna Davis said she's noticed real improvements in recent days in her son's condition. Photo: Karleen Minney

The young athlete has gone from nine rugby training sessions and games per week to physio exercises designed to get his muscles working again. But Ms Davis has no doubts about her son's ability to get over this trauma.

"It's all about supporting him and getting him where he wants to be, which is back on the footy field," Ms Davis said.

"He's pretty tough, he's very ambitious and he'll push himself to get there."

TJ dreams of one day playing professional rugby and even a visit from Raiders coach Ricky Stuart couldn't deter him from hoping to pull on a Parramatta Eels jersey in future.

In addition to Stuart's visit, the young talent has received messages of support from the league and union communities at both local and professional level. The Brumbies, Raiders, Stephen Moore, Tim Mannah and more have sent messages while Brumbies prop Ben Alexander personally dropped off some playing jerseys.

TJ with Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart who dropped in to show his support during TJ's recovery. Photo: Supplied

TJ with Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart who dropped in to show his support during TJ's recovery. Photo: Supplied

TJ said he couldn't pick a favourite message but said without doubt the best thing during his recovery has been the support around him and visits from his heroes and schoolmates alike.

He has developed a special bond with the wife of Canberra Cavalry pitcher Frank Gailey, Christina Gailey who was also travelling in the car with TJ and Ms Davis when they crashed.

Mr and Mrs Gailey were being hosted by the family in Canberra during the baseball season. Mrs Gailey suffered a broken leg and internal injuries but was released from hospital on Wednesday.

"They were constantly asking for each other in ICU and when they finally saw each other on Christmas Day it was really special," Ms Davis said.

"Since she's gone home there's even more motivation for him to get home now."

First up on the list once that day comes will be recreating a missed Christmas, which was supposed to include visits to several family homes and a trip to Brisbane with his dad.

It is expected TJ will be able to return to school at Canberra Grammar when the year begins with the school offering medical support for his needs.

While Ms Davis is confident her son will make a full recovery physically, she admits dealing with the psychological trauma of the crash may take a little longer.

She said she expects some hesitation about getting back into a car or the family's next trip down to the south coast, but added that even in the past few days she's seen a huge improvement in TJ's mood.

"I'm going to be nervous about the first tackle, I suspect he will be too, but he won't let anyone onto that," she said.

TJ is hopeful of returning to the footy field in time for the upcoming season later this year.

Watching him tackle his recovery so far with a determination to beat all the timelines thrown at him you wouldn't bet against him.

This story TJ crash tackling his way through recovery first appeared on The Queanbeyan Age.