Taree's Jason Miller became a quadruple amputee after near-fatal illness

Welcome home: Patti Hogan, Robert Miller, Jason Miller, Clair Miller and Kate Munn (Jason's sister-in-law) at the Taree airport. Photo: Scott Calvin
Welcome home: Patti Hogan, Robert Miller, Jason Miller, Clair Miller and Kate Munn (Jason's sister-in-law) at the Taree airport. Photo: Scott Calvin

Who would have thought a near-death experience could leave feeling someone taller and stronger.

For Taree native, Jason "Buddy" Miller that's exactly what has happened.

On October 31, 2018, Jason wasn't feeling well, so his mate took him to local medial centre in Sydney.

According to Jason's mother, Taree resident Clair, Jason was so unwell that he was laying on the floor of the medical centre during his expected two hour wait to be seen. After making his way to the toilet, he came across a bed, which he laid in, moaning and groaning, until a doctor walked by.

He was in such a bad state, it was decided that his friend should take him directly to emergency.

That evening, Clair went to watch the dress rehearsal of Les Misérables at the Manning Entertainment Centre and when she returned home, her husband was distraught.

"He told me Jason was dying in the hospital," Clair recalls.

What was thought be a common cold, turned out to be two bugs - streptococcus, which is common and causes lots of nasty infections, and aerococcus, which is extremely rare. These turned into sepsis, a condition caused by bacteria finding its way into the bloodstream.

Jason Miller with his mother, Clair Miller. Photo Scott Calvin

Jason Miller with his mother, Clair Miller. Photo Scott Calvin

Clair got in the car with her daughter-in-law and travelled that night to get to the Northern Beaches Hospital on November 1. When she arrived, she was told he had one hour to live.

But through the sheer determination of both the medical staff and Jason, he pulled through, sacrificing his hands and feet in order to keep his life.

Clair says he was determined to live for his seven-year-old daughter, Jhayda.

The last time Clair was with Jason was in February at the hospital where he is currently living while undertaking rehabilitation, but on Friday, June 7, Jason got a weekend pass and boarded a plane to Taree.

Jason arrived at the Taree Airport to quite the fan-fare, with his parents, Clair and Robert joined by close family friends and a former colleague.

He'd come in for the weekend to help celebrate his dad's 77th birthday and while he's in town, they thought they'd throw together a family reunion.

Thankfully, Jason had been practising on his new legs for the past eight weeks because he needed to put them into action in order to disembark the Pelican Airlines plane. One only needed to watch him make his way down the steps onto the tarmac to see the determination that has pulled him back from the brink.

We made it: Jason's sister-in-law, Kate Munn travelled up with Jason from Sydney. Photo: Scott Calvin

We made it: Jason's sister-in-law, Kate Munn travelled up with Jason from Sydney. Photo: Scott Calvin

Jason is known for being quite the character and he loves a good chat, so his mother was getting a little impatient waiting for him to come into the terminal as he engaged in conversation with the airline staff.

"Hurry up Jason, your mother's waiting for you," she yelled to him.

Clair retells the story about how, when Jason finally woke up from his coma, he was desperate to get the ventilator tube out of his throat.

"He's a talker and he wanted it out. Within an hour, he was talking non-stop," she laughed.

Jason entered the terminal to a hero's welcome, with his biggest supporters there to welcome him home.

Although his journey through rehab is long from over, he's fully recovered from the illness.

"I can't remember feeling this strong. I feel like a finely tuned machine," Jason laughed.

And with his new legs, he's on top of the world.

"I feel tall," Jason joked. After having spent so much time lying down, when he first stood up it was like a new sensation.

"I'm an inch taller," he said, explaining how the prosthetics have been adjusted to his benefit.

Each day presents a new challenge for Jason as he looks for ways to do things that used to be so simple when he had hands, like making a phone call.

While he continues to live in the hospital working toward living independently, his days are filled with learning to use his new hands and new legs. And once out of the hospital, there will be a whole new range of challenges, but Jason is very positive about his future.

"He's got a fantastic attitude toward life," Clair smiled.