Miracle man – Four years after horror smash, Jesse is on his feet


A QUEENSTOWN car crash survivor given five years to live in 2010 – and told he’d never walk again – is back on his feet.

Jesse Boulay – who turns 21 this week – spent a year in a coma after the horror New Year’s Day 2010 smash that killed his friend Jessica Law.

Boulay sustained a severe brain injury and will likely never fully recover. But two months ago, he walked unaided for the first time since the accident.

“It feels good to be tall again,” Boulay tells Mountain Scene this week.

“I’m working on my legs. Learning to walk again – going to Queenstown Gym, squats and machine work.”

Boulay and Law were passengers in the Nissan Pulsar driven by Josephine Clay.

All three were 16.

Clay had just three hours’ experience behind the wheel before the crash on Littles Road – a 125kmh head-on collision with a Mercedes after losing control on a bend.

Boulay had been driving the car but asked Clay if she wanted to drive.

Clay, who was later convicted of dangerous driving causing death and injury, had been behind the wheel that day for only 600 metres.

Boulay can remember nothing of the crash – and little of his life before the incident.

“I don’t remember much about before, parts of school,” Boulay says.

“I can’t remember waking up or being in hospital.

“It’s been a terrible process, awful.”

Boulay spent time in Dunedin intensive care unit, Wakari Hospital’s specialist rehabilitation service (the ISIS Centre) and Cromwell’s Ripponburn Home, where he gradually came out of the coma after being taken off drugs.

Mum Karen says: “It took a long time for him to come back.

“There was no one moment, it was very gradual. But there’s a photo from November 6, 2010, where you can see he’s come back.

“We took him back to Dunedin to be assessed and the specialist was quite surprised because he thought he’d be dead.

“He was given five years to live and told he’d never walk again.

“I never gave up on him – it must be a mother thing or something.”

Asked if it feels good to have proved the specialists wrong, Jesse says: “People waste time on thoughts, but it sure does.

“I want to go and see the specialist one day.”

Jesse lives with ever-supportive mum Karen, on Huff Street.

Karen says: “He didn’t like the institutionalisation of where he was so I just brought him home about two years ago.

“The best thing about him is he’s so good to live with because he’s got such a great sense of humour – he’s not a pain to live with.

“I have to say ACC has been really good – it has provided all the care. He has four people working with him at the moment – a physiotherapist, personal trainer, occupational therapist, and a working-towards-independent-living support worker.

“He’s trying to decide what he can do in the future, some sort of occupation.

“It’s quite hard because he can’t read – that’s part of the injury. He can see, but not read, and that takes out quite a lot of things he’d potentially do.”

Now he’s back on his feet, Jesse has a new goal.

“To walk and move the hell out of here,” he says.

“Spread my wings, as they say.”