Support from family, friends and the community is helping Milly Yeoman fight back from a spinal injury

BESTIES: Milly Yeoman and Tilly Burke have been inseparable since Milly became quadriplegic following a swimming pool accident in November 2016. Picture: Jeremy Bannister
BESTIES: Milly Yeoman and Tilly Burke have been inseparable since Milly became quadriplegic following a swimming pool accident in November 2016. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

Lawyers for a young teen left quadriplegic after a swimming pool accident are appealing for new laws to be created which would give her and other families in similar circumstances access to compensation before the end of lengthy legal battles.

Milly Yeoman, 13, was left a quadriplegic after diving in to a shallow pool during a school swimming lesson in November 2016.

Because she requires 24-hour care, Milly’s parents Peter and Rebecca have had to give up their jobs to look after their daughter and after almost 18 months have depleted their savings and been forced to sell business equipment to survive.

The family’s lawyers have written to the Victorian Department of Education and the swimming school seeking interim funding to help support the family, which have been “politely” refused ahead of a court case expected in October.

In a letter to Wendouree MP Sharon Knight last week, Saines Lucas Solicitors said that NSW legislation had “an express provision which allows for interim judgements”.

“It is our view that Victoria ought to have a comparable provision in the Victorian Wrongs Act to take into account catastrophic injuries.”

Milly spent 197 days in the Royal Children’s Hospital after her accident, returning home in May last year. From being unable to move her arms and legs immediately after the accident, Milly has regained some movement in her arms and wrists, but not her fingers. She will never walk again.

HEIGHT: Milly Yeoman jokes around, raising her wheelchair to be taller than her best mate Tilly Burke. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

HEIGHT: Milly Yeoman jokes around, raising her wheelchair to be taller than her best mate Tilly Burke. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

Three carers help Milly get ready in the morning, and another two come in at night. 

It is estimated that care costs for Milly over her lifetime will be almost $40 million, with physiotherapy (currently $1000 a week), medications and other costs taking the total far higher.

Within months she had fought her way back to be well enough to start year seven at Ballarat Secondary College’s Woodman’s Hill campus during term three.

Best friend Tilly Burke has been by her side from day one, visiting her in the Royal Children’s Hospital, hanging out and even making friends for her before she hit high school.

“I really enjoyed meeting new people when I went back to school. Because I only started year seven it was very interesting meeting everyone, very awkward, but before I actually started Tilly made friends for me,” Milly said.

“She has some days when she gets down about it all and breaks down a bit. She wants to be as normal as possible and gets sick of all the appointments and the stuff she has to do that other kids don’t have to do, and things she can’t do that other kids can do.”

Peter Yeoman

Milly gets to school as much as she is able, but missed the last two weeks due to an ongoing infection which will require another surgery.

“She can’t start until 10.30am because we get her up at 7am, it takes two hours to get ready, then she’s got to have breakfast and often doesn’t feel well in the morning which has to do with blood pressure, so usually it’s about 10.30am before she can go to school if she feels well,” mum Rebecca said.

Despite her limited schooling last year, Milly passed year seven with an average of about 75 per cent in her exams.

For now the focus is on getting to school and being as much like any other 13-year-old as she can.

“She is strong, she is pretty good,” Mr Yeoman said. “She has some days when she gets down about it all and breaks down a bit. She wants to be as normal as possible and gets sick of all the appointments and the stuff she has to do that other kids don’t have to do, and things she can’t do that other kids can do.”

The front room of the family’s Invermay home resembles a rehabilitation centre with machines designed to keep Milly as strong as possible.

A $35,000 functional electric stimulation bike, to which Milly’s hands and feet are strapped, turns itself with impulses in to the muscles to keep them strong.

“We’ve got to keep her muscles active so when a cure comes along she’s got strong muscles,” Mrs Yeoman said.

Family members have also set up a gofundme page to help with her care costs, and many local sporting and community clubs have held fundraising events for the family.

Worksafe last week filed charges against the Department of Education and Training and private swim centre De Kort Enterprises Pty Ltd, trading as Swim and Survival Academy, in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.