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Teen felled at McDonald's thankful to be alive after 16 days in coma

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 5 days ago Rob Morrison

I never expected to meet Josh Waite. 

I, like most people, thought he would die - yet another victim of an alleged coward hit.

Another story of a young life lost after a crazy decision made by someone else. I've covered these stories before.

Josh was felled in the McDonald's car park in Redcliffe by a single high-kick to the head on May 12. He never saw the blow coming. His head hit the concrete ground.

I was with the other journalists outside the Royal Brisbane Hospital waiting for the news that Josh hadn't made it. I remember the live crosses: "His family is praying for a miracle".

I also remember the tearful interview with Andy, his father, as his "Joshy" lay in a coma.

"I wake up every morning gasping for air thinking I'm in a big nightmare and then I realise I'm not," he said.  

Josh Waite © Twitter / 9NewsQueensland Josh Waite Not many people were giving Josh a chance.

Not the lawyers in court: "We expect the charges against the alleged attacker to be upgraded, your honour."

Not the detectives, not the paramedics, not the media.

Even if he did wake up, surely his extreme brain injuries would claim his future?

We kept hearing about the "scares" as Josh edged closer to death.

At one point doctors removed part of his skull to make room for his swelling brain. How could he possibly survive?

Our executive producer asked the question daily, "How's Josh today?". I knew what he meant.

Nearly four months later, I received a phone call from Andy.

"Can we get a coffee? There's someone I'd like you to meet," he said.

We were sitting in the cafe at the hospital when I first saw him, all 6-foot 3 of him. Josh Waite, against all the odds, walking tall.

I'll admit it now, this story has affected me.

I have a 17-year-old brother - the same age as Josh. He too is a talented athlete with his life ahead of him. I think we all know "a Josh".

Tucking into a hospital burger, Josh started talking... just.

There were a lot of mumbled "teenagerisms": "I dunno", "I guess so".

I could tell he was nervous and that was understandable considering he was in a coma for 16 days.

He was trying to speak but his brain wasn't processing what he wanted to say. He laughed a bit.

We decided perhaps it's best to give things some more time. We'll talk again next week.

I got the call. Josh was ready. We were to meet at the Redcliffe jetty.

I didn't know it when I hung up, but I was about to spend four hours with perhaps the most impressive young man I have ever met.

"I remember waking up in hospital but I didn't know why I was in hospital," Josh said, speaking with a new comfortable confidence.

"It was kind of weird. Just waking up and finally remembering and you're just looking around thinking why you're in hospital."

Josh was perched on a rock by the sea in a casual storyteller high-knee pose. He kept looking at the sun dancing on the water.

"I feel like I've had a complete fresh start, like the reset button has been pushed on my life," he said.

"I appreciate being alive today. Actually, it kind of feels like I am in heaven or something. It's kind of like a dream. That's how I can kind of explain it." 

Josh still spends hours in rehabilitation every week.

He has no sense of smell. His brain function is slowly returning. He has no memory of what happened.

It's frustrating. He's always tired. He's always nervous.

"I'm always thinking am I going to get hit? And I don't like people walking too close behind me. It makes we feel anxious," he said.

Josh's life has been changed forever. There's no doubt about that.

It'd be so easy for him to retreat into his shell to be with his demons.

But Josh is no ordinary person. It turns out the boy who was meant to die was all along a miracle man.

He decided he wanted to return to the McDonald's for the first time, with us.

I've seen some amazing things in this job. I've met so many amazing people.

But the strength and love I saw between a father and son moved me like nothing I've experienced before.

Andy explained to Josh what happened that night, the night he thought he lost his boy.

It was clearly overwhelming. The emotion is raw. There are tears.

"I love you son."

"I love you dad."

At times like these I can't help but feel we've overstepped the mark.

We were invited here, yes, but this moment should be theirs. Then Josh walked over to us. He wanted to say something.

"I'm going to keep coming back until I feel I can walk through here confidently," he said.

Josh wants people to see that he won't let any car park or a mad moment swallow him or his future.

I never expected to meet Josh Waite. I have no doubt he is destined for great things.

"I think the reason I am alive because maybe I'm made to do something," he said.

"So maybe the reason I am alive is to actually bring awareness and make contact with people."

I know he will. 

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