It’s amazing to think how the small decisions you make every day can eventually transform into life-changing moments. The incredible story of Sally, our Lottery 180
1st Prize winner, has enough of these moments to last a hundred lifetimes.
Many small choices led Sally to her unbelievable $760,000 prize. What is most astonishing, however, is that she was very nearly not alive to enjoy it…
It was 11:30am, Saturday 11 June 2016. Sally* and her husband were preparing for a short camping trip to Kenilworth in Queensland’s Mary Valley. They were planning to test out their new cold weather sleeping bags, bought in anticipation of a longer journey they had been planning for a year: a three week expedition to Birdsville, through the Red Centre and back across the Simpson Desert.
‘I was just walking down the hallway,’ Sally remembers. ‘Suddenly it felt like someone had smashed in the back of my head with an axe. I knew straight away it was something serious.’
Sally’s eldest daughter, who was staying with her at the time, was luckily close enough to hear Sally fall, and came to check on her.
‘The worst thing was I couldn’t tell her what was wrong,’ says Sally. ‘I immediately lost my vision and couldn’t stop being sick. I was conscious, but I just couldn’t get the pain to go away.’
Sally’s family rushed her to hospital where she immediately underwent a battery of tests, including three angiograms and heavy doses of medication to stop her body going into severe shock.
The healthy 54-year-old had just experienced a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage (SAH), a type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space around brain, in this case caused by a sudden aneurysm.
‘I’m so lucky to be alive,’ Sally explains. ‘For people who suffer subarachnoid haemorrhages, a third die instantly and a third end up with profound brain damage. The other third is me.’
Sally spent 11 days in the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital intensive care unit, followed by a further three weeks recovering in hospital.
‘I learned afterwards that a SAH can just be something you’re born with,’ says Sally. ‘They can just be little time bombs ticking away.’
“I knew straight away it was something serious.”
Recovery was a slow process. Even after discharge from hospital, Sally remained on a ‘crazy amount’ of medications for several months.
‘You’re just out of it most of the time,’ she explains. ‘People say they had conversations with me when I was recovering that I had no recollection of.’
A fiercely independent person, Sally made it her unshakeable goal to return to her regular work and life routines as quickly as possible. ‘My main focus was getting better,’ she explains, ‘but we also had massive debt. I needed to get back to being me.’
‘I was unbelievably lucky to have a very supportive workplace,’ Sally says. ‘The founding director and his wife came to see me in hospital and told me not to worry about work, about money, that they would support me in any way that they could. They let me come back at my own pace, slowly increasing my workload, and providing me with taxi vouchers until I was eventually allowed to drive again.’
“I needed to get back to being me.”
After a few years, life had returned to something like normal, but the financial strains Sally and her family faced just weren’t going away.
This year, Sally’s eldest daughter moved back home to save for her first apartment, and Sally’s youngest daughter, just married, announced she was expecting a son in October. Sally and her husband knew they wanted to cut back on work to spend more time with family, but how to do it?
‘We had discussed moving to a nine day fortnight, in order to help out with the baby, but also this meant we had to tighten our belt further, service our debt, and maintain a strict budget. My husband was already working three out of four weekends. I wasn’t sure what more we could do.’
A few days later, Sally pored over her credit card statements to see where they could cut back, and noticed a common theme.
‘My husband and I love to give to others, and I noticed the support we were giving to art unions and charities. I had a bit of a rant and rave to my husband about how much we were donating! I told him we had to start saying no.’
Two days after this decision, however, Sally ignored her own advice after receiving a call from Deaf Services.
‘I always liked the Deaf Lottery prize options,’ she explains, ‘and I increased my VIP Club Membership to $30 from $20. It was better value and better odds, but I felt so guilty afterwards!’
Sally drew a line in the sand, and told herself that if any other charities or art unions called, she would immediately ask to be removed from their contact lists.
The very next day, at work, Sally received another call from Deaf Services.
‘A lady asked my name, and before she could say anything else I told her, please don’t contact me. I had to be upfront. She was very persistent, and I think I was quite rude to her!’
The lady on the other end of the line was in fact Deaf Services Executive General Manager Maree Brown, and she wasn’t trying to sell Sally any more tickets. In fact, Maree had some very exciting news to share.
How would you spend a minimum $750,000?
Sally’s connection to Deaf Services had begun over 20 years before, when she was freelancing as a graphic designer for a printing company at Stafford in Brisbane’s north. One of the company’s clients was The Deaf Lottery.
‘I remember thinking to myself, this is so much better than just winning a house somewhere you don’t get to choose,’ Sally remembers. ‘I loved the flexibility and usability of the prizes, and I decided to start buying tickets.’
It’s safe to say Sally’s small decision all those years ago paid off for her and her family, just when they needed it most.
Sally became a $20 Deaf Lottery VIP Member in 2018, and her decision to upgrade her VIP status just before Lottery 180 closed delivered an extra surprise in the form of a $10,000 Book Buyer’s Bonus Prize.
‘What’s amazing,’ explains Sally, ‘is that if I hadn’t upgraded my VIP Club Membership, not only would I have missed out on the $10,000 bonus, I wouldn’t have won at all.’
If her story wasn’t already incredible enough, Sally’s winning ticket number came from the book she’d purchased only a few days before the Lottery Draw.
Maree makes the winning call.
Maree was standing in the Deaf Services Contact Centre, along with all the Deaf Services staff who had worked so hard on the Deaf Lottery 180 campaign. Maree was calling Sally to tell her she had won 1st Prize: a total of $760,000.
Sally was sure the call wasn’t real, but eventually Maree convinced her she had won.
‘I couldn’t stop crying,’ Sally says. ‘It was beyond amazing. I couldn’t comprehend it.’
Sally immediately called her husband, but he was travelling and couldn’t answer her call.
‘I sent him a screenshot of the winners’ page on the Deaf Lottery website with the winning ticket number and our suburb. He told me later he thought I was getting him in trouble for buying tickets without telling me!’
Unable to concentrate on work, Sally drove to her parents’ house. When she arrived, her brother and sister-in-law just happened to be pulling into the driveway.
‘I said to them, remember how I said I was going to a nine-day fortnight? Well now that’s going to be a four-day week! I told them about my win and they just started hooting and hollering.’
Sally with her brand new Hyundai Tuscon and ‘Grandchild on Board’ sign!
Talking with Sally about her win has been an education in what the term life-changing actually means. As someone who has already experienced a single moment that altered her world completely, Sally is using her Deaf Lottery win to make changes to her life that are not just immediate, but ongoing, sustainable and meaningful.
Sally chose the Mortgage Buster 1st Prize option, treating herself to a brand new Hyundai Tucson 4WD, and using a significant portion of the remaining prize money to clear her debt and create ongoing investments. This means not just material gains, but peace of mind.
‘Financially, we had this commitment that we were tied to. But that’s gone now. I don’t have to worry about our house, our vehicles, or anything else.’
The $10,000 Book Buyer’s Bonus is going straight to Sally’s eldest daughter, who recently moved back home to save for her first apartment. ‘Maybe this means she’ll be with us only for six months instead of twelve!’, jokes Sally.
It’s clear, though, that the most important thing Sally can buy with her prize is time with her family.
‘I nearly died, so obviously I want more quality time with the people in my life. One of the first things I thought about when I knew I’d won was that my husband doesn’t have to work every weekend. This is going to completely change his life, and mine. We can now spend this time together, take weekend trips, and of course be with our new grandson!’
The next stage of her life, Sally explains, is now no longer just a concept but a reality.
‘It’s so wonderful to think that our retirement could come in only three or four years,’ Sally says, ‘rather than seeming like it would never come. This prize has been an amazing gift. I want to make it life-changing not just for the immediate future, but for the long term.’
‘Winning the Deaf Lottery has meant that I can be me again. Not the me before the SAH, but the me I am today.’
*UPDATE* We are very proud to announce that Sally welcomed her first grandson into the world on 1 October. Mum, bub and grandparents are all doing well
*Name changed to protect anonymity