Sam wasn't meant to survive the night - that was seven years ago

Seven years ago, Brisbane doctors did not expect Sam Goddard to survive the night after he suffered seven devastating strokes in a matter of hours, described by medical experts as "like a grenade going off in his head".

Sam has constantly defied the odds and with his family's support has bounced back from that life-changing day. Now his parents are planning to launch a campaign to help others like him.

It started on Valentine's Day in 2010 when Sam was 23 years old and playing in a charity fundraiser soccer match. He headed the ball to score a goal and afterwards felt woozy, so was taken to a St John Ambulance tent to recover.

Three hours later, as he arrived in the forecourt of the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Sam had his first stroke. He would have six more that day.

Sam's parents, Leslie and John, older brother Josh and then-fiancee Sally Nielsen quickly arrived at the hospital and stayed with Sam as doctors placed him in an induced coma and conducted tests.

After receiving the results a few days later, doctors told Sam's family that he was not expected to survive the night and even if he did, would be in a vegetative state. The statistics were a 5 per cent chance of him waking up and a 100 per cent chance of being severely disabled.

"It was absolutely dreadful news," Sam's father said.

"Before it happened he was a young man in the prime of his life, a scratch golfer, accountant and generally good at everything. It was hard to believe how quickly things had changed.

"After getting the news, you go through stages of disbelief, frustration, anger and all sorts of emotions. It didn't compute for us and we never stopped believing that Sam would survive."

About six weeks later, Sam started to come out of the coma and after about three months fully awoke. Once his recovery was on track, Sam completed physiotherapy and brain-injury rehabilitation.

He had spent a total of 15 months in hospital by the time he was released, returning to his family home in Highvale, located about 30 kilometres north-west of Brisbane.

Despite having made it out of hospital, Sam was still "massively disabled" according to his father - substantially blind and unable to speak. However, his defiant family began researching online in the hope of finding "a miracle cure".

They found stories of controversial sleeping tablet Stilnox helping patients with brain injuries and after much convincing, a local GP prescribed some of the drugs for the family to try. The results after giving Sam just half a tablet were encouraging.

"We saw enough physical reaction to continue giving him the tablets, he showed signs of waking up, being with it and his pain subsided," John said.

As the medication continued and Sam became frustrated with his body, his fiancee one day decided to give him triple the regular dose.

"Sally called me and told me to listen to the next message and it was Sam talking, saying 'Dad, I'm back, I'm back'. He spoke clearly for an hour before the medication wore off, but that was the start of our Stilnox journey," John said.

The Stilnox success led to the family contacting international medical experts who supplied Sam with enough to have a dose of the drug every four hours daily.

The family then took Sam to the United States in May 2014, after hearing about an arthritis treatment that had helped brain trauma and stroke victims. After receiving the treatment, Sam's quality of life improved dramatically once again.

"He got back most of his vision, enjoyed more quality speaking time, his spasticity improved and he could climb stairs as well as sit and stand," John said.

These treatments continue to work for Sam today and his family have been amazed by his determination, which included battling through a bad stage of depression.

"He is still doing remarkable things, he is a miracle patient, a miracle outcome and his achievements according to medical science were simply not possible," John said.

Australian doctors remained sceptical throughout Sam's incredible recovery and believed his improvements could not possibly be attributed to Stilnox.

After battling medical experts to access alternative treatment methods for Sam and experiencing constant scepticism from local doctors, Sam's family now plan to launch a campaign to help others like him and give them a chance of a remarkable recovery.

"We respect the evidence-based decision making which exists in the medical system," John said.

"But we want to fight for change regarding access to different treatment methods for patients where there is very little quality of life.

"I think the medical regulators should be more relaxed."

Despite beating the odds on so many occasions, there is one battle that even Sam can't win - cystic fibrosis. He was born with the disorder and it has worsened during the past year. A lung transplant is not an option given his already fragile state.

"There are no other treatments left, other than antibiotics for any infections," Sam's father said.

"All we are doing is buying him time and that is really frustrating for us as a family."

The average life expectancy for Sam, taking into account his cystic fibrosis and battle overcoming the strokes, is 30-36 years. He is now 30 years old.

Sam's brother and his parents take turns at caring for him at the family home and "just take it one day at a time".

"Right now we are just fighting to make Sam's life a happy one," John said.

Sam's brother Josh has been described by his father as the "discovery of the century" in terms of his abilities as a carer.

"I'll swear and carry on like a pork chop, I'll make him smile and I want him to feel as much joy as he can for the time that he has," Josh said.

The family plans to launch their campaign for relaxed medical regulations in Sam's honour. They have already started gathering support from international medical experts.

Sam's father has also written a book about his son's life, which is being reviewed by potential publishers. It is titled Ten Foot Tall and Bulletproof - because that is the way Sam sees himself.

Australian Story: I Am Sam will be broadcast on ABC and ABC iview on Monday, June 12, at 8pm.

This story Sam wasn't meant to survive the night - that was seven years ago first appeared on Brisbane Times.