COLAC district cricket stalwart Eric Hay got the thrill of his life when Collingwood AFL skipper Nick Maxwell visited him at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
The avid Pies supporter is on the road to recovery after suffering life-threatening injuries last month, and was relaxing in the neurology ward on Tuesday when the 2010 premiership captain strolled in.
Hay’s daughter Janet Quigley, who organised the visit, said her father’s eyes lit up when Maxwell made the surprise visit.
Hay fired question after question using a small whiteboard because a balloon in his throat to protect his lungs impairs his ability to speak.
“It gave him a big smile on the face and he asked about Nick’s injury and when he’s coming back, and about other players,” Mrs Quigley said.
“Nick was excellent with him, he’s even asked me to continue to let him know about Dad’s recovery,” she said.
And so far Hay’s recovery has all been positive since he suffered multiple skull fractures and a life-threatening bout of pneumonia following a freak mishap at Warrion Cricket Ground.
Hay was removing the covers from the pitch when a six-metre stormwater pipe hanging out of a moving ute struck his head on February 12.
Doctors shifted him from the respiratory ward to the high-dependency unit of the neurology ward two weeks ago, where a feeding peg feeds him directly into his stomach.
Hay’s hearing has returned, he is able to walk unassisted and each day doctors release the balloon in his throat for a few hours as he relearns how to swallow and to give him a chance to talk with friends and family.
He was even able to watch the Pies’ NAB Cup grand final victory.
“There was initially a pneumonia complication and then he had some breathing problems because that’s the part of the brain that was affected, but that’s all stabilised now his oxygen levels are stable,” Mrs Quigley said.
Mrs Quigley said she, her father – a much-loved identity in Colac district cricket circles – mother Eva and brother Darren had been inundated with support from friends and family.
The Warrion Cricket Club even passed around a collection bucket to support the family during the Division One cricket grand final on Hay’s personally-prepared Warrion surface.
“We’re very, very thankful for the amount of visits, phone calls, and to the staff and doctors at the Royal Melbourne – in particular his nurse Katie,” Mrs Quigley said.