A FREAK accident at an Australia Day barbecue has left a young dad a paraplegic.
Tim Goward, who studied at Yallah TAFE last year, was injured after sliding down a slippery dip and into a pool in a Southern Highlands backyard.
He has been in North Shore Hospital ever since, only last week coming out of an induced coma in amazingly "good spirits", according to his aunty Annie Rowland.
"He is very positive which is hard to believe, he only came out of it on Wednesday, it's quite amazing," Ms Rowland said.
"He's got his arms, but nothing from his belly down. It's going to be a long road, but when something like this happens nothing else matters, everyone comes together."
Ms Rowland hasn't seen her nephew since the accident, opting to care for the children of Mr Goward's big sister Manda so she can be by his side.
"When these things happen you realise what's important. We are a very close family anyway and this just makes us closer."
Mr Goward, who has a two-year-old son Riley, studied parks and gardens at Yallah TAFE last year.
"Tim's been working three jobs and going to TAFE, he wanted to get a trade behind him and that's why he got into horticulture," Ms Rowland said.
"He wanted to have something for the future, something to fall back on."
The 26-year-old "born and bred Highlander" has a full time-job as an apprentice horticulturist at Sugarloaf Farm and had been working casual shifts at Briars Inn in Bowral and the Central Hotel in Moss Vale.
Friends rallied at the Central Hotel on Friday, holding a fundraiser to help ease the financial burden on Mr Goward and his family.
A fund is being set up for the family, but in the meantime if anyone can help with donations contact firstname.lastname@example.org.