Bodybuilder learns to walk, eat again after massive car crash landed him in coma
Yusuf Kamara used to be a local superstar on the pitch and a pin-up boy for gym brands.
But while driving from Goulburn to Canberra two years ago, his van struck a tow-truck. The trailer went through his windscreen and hit him in the head, crushing his skull and significantly damaging his brain.
He was flown to Canberra Hospital for emergency surgery, and doctors told his family they did not expect him to survive.
But his father Umaro Kamara said the family never gave up hope and committed themselves to doing whatever it took to save Yusuf’s life.
“If my son is going to stay there for 100 years, let him stay there until he dies for himself,” he said.
“Maybe he was going to survive, maybe not.”
Defying his doctors’ expectations, Yusuf woke up weeks after the accident — but with a long, gruelling and expensive rehabilitation process ahead.
“The reaction was like, we were in heaven,” his father said of the day Yusuf regained consciousness.
“Everyone was happy, this was a miracle.”
Learning to walk at age 24
Since the accident 24-year-old Yusuf has learned to do the basics once more, including eating, walking and speaking.
Every day he trains in the gym with a personal trainer and, while he is not the same man he was before the accident, he continues to improve every day.
Yusuf Kamara can now walk, eat and talk, two years after doctors said he would not survive his injuries. (Supplied)
His family put their lives on hold to be there for him, moving interstate for five months while Yusuf was in a rehabilitation facility.
“I had five months’ leave to go home [to Sierra Leone] to visit my mum and unfortunately I had to cancel that,” Umaro Kamara said.
But they knew their sacrifice was worth it.
“I really would rather put my life on hold, and help my brother, than get the best-paying job,” Yusuf’s brother Kalie said.
“The best families are the ones that take care of each other no matter what.”
Little boy lost
The crash was not the first time Yusuf’s family faced the prospect of losing him.
Fleeing violent civil war in their homeland of Sierra Leone more than 14 years ago, they spent time in a refugee camp in Conakry, Guinea.
One day, Yusuf wandered away from where they were encamped — going missing for 10 days.
His family put word out to anyone who would listen in an attempt to find him, but feared he would not be found in the chaos, and without technology to help.
But word got out, and Yusuf was recognised.
“A lady walking past saw someone who matched his description locked in a compound trying to get out,” Kalie said.
“She told us and it turned out to be him.”
‘Canberra has always got my back’
When the Kamaras arrived in Canberra, the two boys became active members of the sporting community, Yusuf in soccer and Kalie in basketball.
After a knee injury left Premier League player Kalie unable to fund his reconstructive surgery in 2015, it was the Canberra community who stepped up to help, raising more than $10,000.
When news of Yusuf’s accident got out, the family was once again inundated with offers of help.
Several fundraising events and websites were set up to help his family, and thousands of dollars were raised to go towards rehabilitation costs.
Trivia nights and friendly sporting events were also held to raise funds, which Umaro and Kalie said significantly eased both the financial and emotional toll of Yusuf’s condition.
“Canberra has always got my back — they always support me,” Kalie said.
“I’m grateful to be here because every time we need support they always come through.”