Boy Jaxon Durrans millimetres from tragedy after waterhole jump on Kununurra family holiday

Headshot of Regina Titelius
Regina TiteliusThe West Australian
Jaxon and Kody Durrans at a nearby waterhole days before Jaxon’s accident.
Camera IconJaxon and Kody Durrans at a nearby waterhole days before Jaxon’s accident. Credit: Supplied

A mother has told how she fought desperately to save her son’s life when a relaxing day at a Kununurra waterhole suddenly turned into a nightmare.

Cheryl Durrans had to act quickly after her 10-year-old son Jaxon fractured his back jumping off a 10m rock face into the water.

Jaxon and his family would later discover he came within a couple of millimetres of sustaining serious spinal damage.

"We just have to thank our lucky stars, we really dodged a bullet," Cheryl, 44, said.

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"For weeks after the accident I was a mess just thinking how precious and precarious life is. He could have died, he could have ended up paralysed.

"Instead, we’re one of the lucky ones and now Jaxon is jumping around like any other 10-year-old kid, but we’ll always remember how close we came to tragedy," she added, fighting back tears.

Jaxon Durrans and his mum Cheryl.
Camera IconJaxon Durrans and his mum Cheryl. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The Sunday Times

Cheryl had taken her two sons, Jaxon, then 9, Kody, 7, and their friend Deakin, 9, to the nearby Hidden Valley Springs to cool off on a sweltering day in January.

With no other swimmers around, the three boys made several jumps. On their last jump, Deakin jumped first, followed by Jaxon and then Kody who accidentally landed on Jaxon.

While Kody surfaced quickly, Jaxon came up several seconds later, face down in the water.

Swimming frantically, Cheryl feared the worst. Having momentarily regained consciousness, Jaxon had started sinking, but Cheryl reached him just before he disappeared into the dark water.

Cheryl mustered all her strength to get both her sons to the water’s edge, where Jaxon assured his mum he could feel his legs but complained of a sore neck.

Not even suspecting spinal injuries, Cheryl helped Jaxon stagger back along the path to their car, and her husband Ben met them half way and took them to the local hospital for initial tests before Jaxon and Cheryl flew to Perth.

‘When Jaxon first found out he had to wear the halo he burst out crying’ - Cheryl Durrans.

Princess Margaret Hospital doctors confirmed he’d fractured the C6 cervical vertebrae at the base of the neck and damaged his T3-T6 thoracic vertebrae, in the upper spine.

Doctors then told Jaxon he would have to wear a halo for three months to stabilise and realign his spine.

The halo was a titanium ring, with four bolts going into his skull and rods connected to a brace wrapped around his torso.

Three days after his accident, Jaxon was already able to take some steps and within a week he flew back home.

VideoThe man contracted a rare auto-immune disease that damaged his spinal cord.

A week later, Jaxon returned to PMH for his first of many check-ups, during which doctors discovered his C6 had shifted within a couple of millimetres of causing spinal cord damage.

"When Jaxon first found out he had to wear the halo he burst out crying," Cheryl said.

"But we worked on making sure he focused on the positives and how lucky he was to have survived, and that after three months he’ll be back to normal."

The Durrans flew back to PMH every two weeks for Jaxon to have his halo bolts painfully tightened.

With about 10 trips, the Durrans were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, which Cheryl said was "a blessing".

Jaxon was given the all clear two weeks ago.

"When something like this happens it makes you realise that your life can change in an instant," Cheryl said.

"But we have been so lucky to get the help we needed."

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