The Royal and Prince of Wales team up for baby joy

The moment a father makes contact with his newborn child for the first time is always a special moment. It was even more so for Nathan Stapleton.

Nathan sadly wasn’t able to hold his second son Angus when his wife Kate gave birth in July this year; a much longed brother to their 20-month-old toddler Harry.

The closest he was able to get to the new addition to his family was when Samantha Arbidans, midwife at the Royal Hospital for Women, tenderly placed Angus on Nathan’s bare chest for some skin to skin contact.

It was just one of the myriad of ways The Royal and the Prince of Wales hospitals have gone to extraordinary lengths to help Nathan and Kate live their best life, and bravely face a situation many couples would find overwhelmingly daunting.

The former NRL star has spent months in the intensive care unit of the Prince of Wales Hospital after a tackle in a country rugby game went horribly wrong, leaving the 32 year old a quadriplegic.

But thanks to two extraordinary Prince of Wales ICU nurses – Megan Pinfold and Stephanie Rhodes – Nathan was able to attend the birth even though he cannot move and could barely speak.

Despite the fact it had never been done before, Megan and Stephanie organised a mobile intensive care unit so they could wheel Nathan and his ventilator along the corridors of the Randwick campus and over to The Royal.

Thankfully, Kate’s labour was relatively fast, meaning Nathan was only out of ICU for several hours.

Only just learning how to speak again because of the pressure of his ventilator, he was able to whisper words of encouragement to Kate during her labour. 

In the lead up to the birth Nathan said, “Never in a million years did I think I would be going to my wife’s birth as a quadriplegic.”

Kate was equally astonished. “What the hospital has done for us has been absolutely incredible. They have done absolutely everything possible for us.”

Nathan scored 17 tries for the Sharks as a wing back between 2009 and 2014 before retiring to a property near Young in Central West NSW. He fell awkwardly after a tackle during a rugby game at West Wyalong on 9 April, catapulting him into a cardiac arrest. CPR was performed for 16 minutes.

For Kate, it was as if time was standing still. She braced herself for the very worst. “I imagined I would be going to Sydney to turn off his life support because of severe brain damage,” she said.

But then something wonderful happened. When Nathan regained consciousness, he looked straight at his wife, and straight into her eyes.  “He recognised me,” she says. “We just decided from that moment onwards to put everything possible into rebuilding our lives.”

One thing is certain. Nathan has mental toughness in spades. On the wall opposite his bed in the ICU is a whiteboard adorned with inspiring quotes such as “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to be.”  Around that are photos of his life on their sheep and cattle property: dogs, kids, sunset walks with his wife, and beers on the deck with family and friends. He has much to live for.

Ahead lies a long gruelling rehabilitation, but Nathan is not the sort of man who gives up. He has already begun moving about in an electric chair which he mobilises with his chin. He also has his own laptop which he can use with visual technology.

The family will need to stay in Sydney for many more months before Nathan is able to be transferred into the Prince of Wales spinal unit. After that – no-one knows exactly when – will be the Stapleton’s sweet, sweet homecoming to their home in Boorowa, in the NSW Central West.

Photo credit: The Sunday Telegraph.

Nathan Stapleton with his son Harry