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12 Jun 2018



When our perennially accident-prone son was 21, he fell off his pushbike while riding to an important musical workshop at the Adelaide Festival Theatre. He had not a scratch on his body, and his vital signs were entirely stable, so it was not immediately obvious to either parents, both anaesthetists, that anything was seriously wrong.

His only complaint was a slightly sore left shoulder. After a few hours with a painless soft abdomen and totally normal observations, he suddenly became acutely pale, and peripherally shutdown. With outward calm and inward terror, I dialled 000 and was placed on hold.

Despite the assistance of his brother and partner, he collapsed while we attempted to get him into the car. It wasn’t until we had laid him out supine in the back of my car that I was taken off hold from 000. Knowing what a life and death situation this was, I decided to make the five-minute dash for the nearest hospital, St Andrew’s, rather than explain my probable diagnosis to the ambulance and then wait for an uncertain period of time for one to materialise.

Upon arrival, his blood pressure was still normal and the accident and emergency specialist told me that he suspected a vasovagal. Holding up his pale cold fingers, I implored them to consider a ruptured spleen, and as such, was granted an abdominal CT scan just to ‘reassure’ me. The rest is history.

Our son had behaved like a child with shock, which obscured the gravity of his situation to the adult emergency physicians. He was then retrieved to the trauma centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, where additional resuscitation occurred. On the brink of total cardiovascular collapse, with a rapidly rising pulse rate, he finally made it into theatre about five hours after the accident. He underwent a three-hour laparotomy followed by a splenic embolisation to stop the ongoing bleeding. This was not the type of theatre he was supposed to be in that day!

Devastated that he had missed his festival theatre event, and being a consummate composer with a degree in Composition, he did the only sensible thing he could: From his ICU bed, he asked for a notebook and pencil, and he started jotting down ramblings and documenting his journey throughout the entire hospital experience and beyond.

The result was a cabaret show, Scarred For Life, which premiered at the 2017 Adelaide Cabaret Fringe, receiving three five star reviews. The show then returned to the 2018 Adelaide Fringe Festival where several more five star reviews were garnered, followed by the Adelaide Fringe Best Cabaret Award for Week Three. Josh’s show even earned the attention of Andrew Bolt, who summed it up with “Man Falls Off Bike, Becomes Star”.

However, the real as yet untapped audience for this show lies with the medical and nursing professions, who need to hear about this patient experience. Josh’s physical and psychological scars are laid bare along with his soul in an hour of original music and lyrics “that is equal parts Minchin and Mozart” (Scenestr).

Now, Scarred For Life is travelling to Melbourne, for two shows only on August 4 at Chapel Off Chapel. Here, Josh’s show becomes act one, and he teams up with talented local Melbourne performers Damon Smith and Adam Coad who present their original show Mental As Everything as the second half of the evening’s complementary entertainment. Both showcase physical and mental health, and both are funny and poignant. “Inspiring, heartwarming and exactly what a night at the theatre should be!” (Glam Adelaide).

Don’t miss this one-off opportunity, a must-see for the medical and nursing professions: bookings via Chapel Off Chapel live link: or phone 03 8290 7000.

Produced by Under The Microscope Theatre, further enquiries to


Pic: Wilson and Lewis Photography





Published: 12 Jun 2018