Matt Ruddell says he's creating a memory box for Faith and
Phoenix to help them understand what happened to their
mother. Photo: NZ Herald/Alan Gibson
Phoenix Ruddell keeps himself occupied with cartoons and
smartphone apps while his little sister Faith works on her
The children are adjusting as well as can be expected after
they were seriously injured in a car crash that claimed the
life of their mother, Tracey O'Brien, earlier this month.
Phoenix, 4, and Faith, 3, who have just returned home after
three weeks in hospital, have a long recovery ahead of them.
They are also still coming to grips with the fact "mummy" has
Their father Matt Ruddell said he believes the children know
their mother has died but they avoid the subject when he
brings it up.
He plans to enlarge a portrait of the pair with Ms O'Brien to
hang in their bedroom and has begun a memory box to help
explain what happened.
It will contain a video of Ms O'Brien's funeral, which they
missed while in Starship hospital, the funeral order of
service, newspaper clippings about the accident and other
"When they start asking more detailed questions when they get
older, I'll be able to sit them down but the memory box will
be there until then."
Ms O'Brien's jewellery and other photos and keepsakes would
also be kept for the children.
On Friday the pair were discharged from Tauranga Hospital and
now live with Mr Ruddell and his parents.
Phoenix sleeps on a hospital bed in the lounge and is unable
to travel in a car because of the casts which cover him from
chest to toe.
He cannot go to the toilet unaided and can only leave the
house in a wheelchair or ambulance.
The three adults take turns sleeping in the lounge with
Phoenix in case he needs anything during the night.
Mr Ruddell said his son, who will be 5 in August, must learn
to walk again when the casts come off and may miss his first
weeks at school.
But he said the previously "full-throttle" boy, who was into
trampolining and riding a balance bike before the crash, is
On Saturday "he was quite content" to build Lego with a
friend who came to visit.
Faith, who is more mobile with just one leg in a cast, has
mastered the stairs in the two-storey home and, despite
getting tired faster because of her head injury, is back to
her quirky self, "causing mischief", he said.
Mr Ruddell and Ms O'Brien were together more than six years
before splitting up and remained in contact through shared
"I still think the whole thing is surreal, like I'll wake up
tomorrow and the whole thing will have been a dream. But I
want to remain strong for the kids," he said.
A Givealittle fundraising page has raised nearly $11,000.
May 3: Tracey O'Brien's car veers into the path of another at
Te Puna north of Tauranga. She is killed and her children,
Phoenix and Faith, are seriously injured. The children are
taken to Tauranga Hospital and flown to Starship in Auckland.
May 4: Phoenix is in an induced coma in the paediatric
intensive care unit where both his legs are re-set and Faith
is released to a ward from the HDU.
May 12: The children miss their mother's funeral at Omokoroa
May 19: Phoenix and Faith travel by ambulance to Tauranga
Hospital where they are admitted.
May 25: The preschoolers are discharged home to the care of
their father and grandparents.