Beloved victim advocate learns to walk again at Westmead Hospital

Westmead Hospital physiotherapist Nerissa Grebert is interviewed for A Current Affair, with Howard exercising in the background and Mark Leveson to the left. Mark is the father of homicide victim Matt Leveson and has greatly benefited from Howard’s advocacy.

After losing his right leg to a life-threatening medical condition, high-profile victim advocate Howard Brown is learning to accept help at Westmead Hospital.

Inspired by the murder of his friend while studying law three decades ago, Howard supports victims of crime as they navigate the complex legal system.

Among those who have benefited from his invaluable support are Ralph and Kathy Kelly, whose son Thomas was killed by a coward punch in Kings Cross.

“He epitomises kindness,” Ralph told A Current Affair.

“He’s one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet because he never wants, he doesn’t ask for anything … he just gives and gives and gives.”

Howard was shopping six months ago when he felt a sudden pain in the back of his leg, so serious he thought he’d been stabbed.

The pain was a popliteal aneurysm, which is a bulging and weakness in the artery that supplies blood to the knee joint, thigh and calf. If it bursts it can cause uncontrolled bleeding.

Howard’s leg needed to be amputated to save his life, and at 66 he’s now learning to use a prosthetic with the help of Westmead Hospital physiotherapist Nerissa Grebert.

“He’s going really well,” Nerissa said.

“He’s really persistent with his therapy. He tries really hard; he works really hard and he does all his exercises at home so we can’t ask for more than that.”

Howard Brown with Westmead Hospital physiotherapist Nerissa Grebert during Patient Experience Week.

After a lifetime helping others, Howard is now learning to accept help himself.

“Yes, there are going to have to be some changes,” he told A Current Affair.

“But, jeez, they’d better be very small ones because I’m not going to let this interfere with what I have to do.

“Losing a leg sort of pales into insignificance when you consider the loss of the people around me and the people who I’ve supported.”

Note: this story was filmed before COVID restrictions came into place.