When Christian Ashby was left fighting for his life in a Melbourne hospital, the Ballarat community wrapped its arms around his family and didn’t let go.
It’s been a traumatic year so far for Mr Ashby, his wife Karen and their two children Eliza, 7, and Patrick, 3. Mr Ashby didn’t know if he would walk again after he woke from an induced coma 10 days after he was allegedly struck by car.
The keen triathlete was riding around Lake Wendouree on Good Friday.
A breakfast of hot cross buns awaited him at home and the family had their bags packed for a camping trip.
But then tragedy struck.
Mr Ashby was knocked off his bike in an alleged hit-run.
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For 48 hours doctors at the Royal Melbourne Hospital did not know if Mr Ashby would survive.
But his family said the treatment he received there and at the Ballarat Base Hospital saved his life.
He was left with critical internal injuries, broken bones and head injuries. While in a coma Mr Ashby underwent seven operations.
“It was horrific and stressful – we thought, will the kids have a father? If he does survive what will his life be like?” Mrs Ashby said.
But from the beginning the Ashby family knew they had Ballarat’s support.
While Mrs Ashby and the children rushed back and forth from Melbourne, a fight back in Ballarat for Mr Ashby gained momentum.
Mrs Ashby would come home to find meals cooked, flowers on their doorstep and cards in the letterbox.
Cafes the couple had previously never visited suddenly had helmets on their counters collecting donations.
There were hashtags and bike rides promoting bicycle safety – then there was a fundraiser dinner, attended by hundreds.
“Seeing around 300 people all there in support of Christian and the family was very emotional, it was incredible,” Mrs Ashby said.
Thousands raised for the family allowed Mrs Ashby to stop work and dedicate her time to her family.
For Mr Ashby, a Melbourne boy, the incident has undoubtedly changed his life – but it has also made him sure of one thing.
“I’m proud to say I’m from Ballarat – Ballarat is my home.”
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