In the worst moments, Phil Hanson wondered if his teenage son, comatose with a traumatic brain injury since his motorbike and a ute crossed paths on a popular Auckland beach weeks earlier, might be better off dead.
It could hit at the start of the day, when he walked into the Auckland City Hospital neurological ward to find 19-year-old Aaron's condition unchanged, or at the end, as another day ticked over in the weeks passing with no sign of improvement.
It's a thought that goes against the most powerful of parental instincts and, 19 months later, is still hard to acknowledge, Hanson says.
When doctors began warning the North Shore family that Aaron's alive, but comatose state, after suffering a diffuse axonal injury - which affects the brain's ability to send signals to other parts of the body - might be the best outcome they could expect, it'd felt like a "cruel joke".
"One day, after one of those conversations with the doctors, I just came home and crashed on the floor and was just sobbing, because I just couldn't bear to think of this being his life forever.
"It sounds terrible to say, but he almost should rather have been killed in the accident and not have to endure this, if this was going to be his life. Because it's not really a life at that point."
Awful as they were, the moments of despair were scattered among those more uplifting, like perseverance, patience and, most importantly, hope.
In his youngest son's four days in an intensive care unit, five weeks in a neurological ward and two months in a rehabilitation centre, there was so much more that kept Hanson on his feet, and with belief that a better future was still possible.
At the start, it was the speed and care of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew,
who gave the critically injured teen a fighting chance.
And, at the other end of the story, it was ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) Rehabilitation Services in Rānui, where Aaron learned - again - how to walk, talk, read and do the many other day-to-day tasks most take for granted.
Both services will be the recipients of the proceeds of an auction of five landscape paintings by Hanson, a long-time artist.
But putting colour to canvas to encourage support for two services that help so many is only one half of the reason Hanson is speaking about the worst weeks of his life.
The other half is you.
When hope seemed hopeless, he and wife Liesel found comfort in hearing the recovery stories of others, Hanson says.
Hanson, in particular, leaned into the positive outcomes, even downloading the audiobook of American brain injury survivor Phil Slott.
Aaron's story is now among those he wants to light the path for others in the same struggle they were 19 months ago, when Hanson caught himself wondering if his son's survival mightn't have been the best outcome.
"There are a lot of reasons to hope. Because there are a lot of people who have made incredible recoveries."
The phone call
They stopped at the dairy on the way to the beach, Muriwai, on Auckland's west coast.
Aaron Hanson remembers that.
Everything else is flashes. Riding on the sand dunes alongside his mates. It not going as well as he'd like.
Although an experienced road motorcyclist, commuting by motorbike daily to his job at a motorcycle gear shop, Aaron Hanson was that day a newbie.
Riding off-road was new to him, as were his wheels, a 250cc, two-stroke Yahama dirt bike bought days earlier. He was wearing a helmet and other safety gear.
"Some of the riding before the accident was actually a lot of fun. But, riding in the dunes, I found I was dropping the bike too much.
"I decided to go to the main beach to get the hang of it, then I could return to the dunes once I got it nailed. That's when the accident happened."
He doesn't remember the moment his motorbike and a ute being driven on the beach crossed paths. No charges were laid, and there were no independent witnesses.
But marks on the ute, and Aaron's face, indicate vehicle and body came into contact twice.
'This is serious'
At the family home in Glenfield, the phone call came in the afternoon, bringing with it fragments of information both spare and alarming.
Their son was in Auckland City Hospital, but staff were having trouble identifying him from his features, says Hanson of the call every parent dreads.
"The first shock is that he's in the hospital, so this is serious. The second is that it's not him talking to us, it's someone else. And then to hear that he's maybe unrecognisable, so you have all these mental images.
"It was driving us crazy. And we got a bloody puncture on the way to the hospital, which was even worse."
The trouble identifying Aaron turned out to be miscommunication by a staffer, who meant to say their son, now in an induced coma, needed to be positively identified by family.
But although he wasn't disfigured, he was still critically unwell.
"It was a massive shock. He was on oxygen machines and all these other pipes and tubes.
"The registrar was very sincere and earnest, but also very sobering."
It was too soon to know how badly Aaron had been hurt, doctors told them, but they could already tell he'd suffered some bleeding in the brain, Hanson says.
A day later medication keeping their son in a coma was removed. But consciousness remained elusive.
"Every hour [the nurses] would try to get a response from him, and nothing would happen.
We'd be saying, 'Hey Aaron, can you hear us? Can you wiggle your toes, can you poke your tongue out?'
"And there'd just be nothing."
While their son was breathing well enough to come off oxygen two days later, and within four days was out of intensive care and into a neurological ward, his recovery had barely begun.
"Those first few days we kept thinking, this has been a long time already," Hanson says.
"Little did we know."
Signs of hope
It's his story.
But Aaron Hanson remembers none of it.
Not his dad lying on his hospital bed and wrapping him in a bear hug.
Nor the daily chatter about what older brother Luke was up to, funny things the family dog had done, or the requests to just do something - anything - to show he could hear them.
Visits from friends, too, passed him by.
But one visitor raised spirits when he told an - initially disbelieving - Hanson that Aaron had tapped his foot as songs from the friends' shared Spotify playlist filled the ward.
That was on day 10, Hanson says.
"It was a sign that, maybe, something was there."
Nothing followed for weeks.
As the days since the crash climbed into the 30s, the music continued, Hanson putting his phone in a hospital tub to improve the acoustics.
The soulful Gravity, by American singer-songwriter John Mayer, took such a thrashing Liesel Hanson never wants to hear it again.
But it was the music that again gave them hope.
As it neared five weeks since Aaron's crash, he remained in a coma, but had become more agitated, at times thrashing around as his brain stem - responsible for basic functions such as breathing and consciousness - tried to get messages through to the rest of his body.
Music, albeit briefly, began to calm him, Hanson says.
"He'd lie still for a few seconds, and it felt like he was listening to the music. It was like the music, somehow, was getting to him."
On day 35, came the big breakthrough.
Asking his son for a high five, Hanson was stunned when Aaron raised his palm.
"He gave us the high five on the Friday, on the Saturday he still hadn't opened his eyes and still wasn't really communicative … he wouldn't speak till day 40.
"But that gave us so much hope."
For Aaron Hanson, the moment is more hazy. He remembers seeing video footage later.
"And I remember the hype around it, but I don't really vividly remember the whole thing."
He keeps his good humour as his dad pulls out his phone and proudly shows another video, taken the next day when hospital staff put Aaron's toothbrush in his hand and family watched, stunned, as muscle memory did the rest.
And while he might've been brushing his teeth, it'd still be three or four days before Aaron opened his eyes.
He hasn't always enjoyed what he's seen since - videos like the teeth-brushing one make him "cringe", but he understands why they mean so much to those who love him.
"I'm probably at the stage of my life where you ideally want to be growing out of that kiddish stuff.
"But I also understand it. It was kind of an important thing, so that's cool."
Where old memories really began kicking back in, was rehab.
He knew who he was, and his family and friends.
But post-traumatic amnesia meant the teen's memory for anything new was, for the first couple of weeks, as fleeting as Finding Nemo's famously forgetful blue tang Dory.
He'd be told what'd happened to him, and then promptly forget.
But there was no fear, being surrounded by people he could remember helped, Aaron Hanson says.
"I wasn't afraid. I was just sort of like, 'Well, something's happened, here I am now'."
He'd stay at ABI eight weeks, painstakingly re-learning skills he'd, in some cases, first grasped as a toddler.
Walking, talking, using the bathroom, showering alone, reading across the whole page and using his left side - his injury meant his brain wasn't aware of it - all had to be mastered.
Learning to walk was tricky - his balance was shot, for one.
"But I had a lot of help."
Aaron's early steps reminded him of a tightrope walker on the high wire, Hanson says.
"They had to teach him not to put one foot right in front of the other, to actually space his feet.
"I remember watching that and thinking, 'Wow, he really is starting again'."
And while he hadn't forgotten how to speak, some words had to be re-learned.
One night Aaron became perplexed by the jelly in his dessert bowl, Hanson says.
"He pointed to it and said, 'What's that green stuff?' I told him it was jelly, and he could pronounce the word, it was just the recall [that was missing].
"You could see [on his face] he was re-computing, 'Okay, that's what jelly is'."
A lot of therapy was focused on making sure the teen used his left side again.
Aaron's broken shoulder and collar bone were on the right, and neither had suffered nerve damage - his brain simply wasn't aware of the left side after the crash, Hanson says.
That meant lots of therapy to stop the muscles atrophying, along with a course of Botox.
Being injected with a muscle relaxant more commonly associated with the beauty set hunting down lines and wrinkles still brings a smile, as Aaron Hanson holds up his once unresponsive left arm and forms a fist.
Nineteen months after the crash Hanson, now 21, considers himself mostly recovered.
He's back at work in a motorcycle gear shop, and he doesn't tend to need the daytime naps that were so vital earlier in his recovery.
His once perfect vision has been affected by the crash, but is improving.
"I know I've been pretty lucky."
He wants to get his driver's licence - he had only his learner's before the crash - and, while it hasn't happened yet, he will get back on a motorcycle one day, he says.
A pre-crash ambition to become an airline pilot is likely now out of reach, but he's hopeful another pathway in aviation may be possible.
He knows he's fortunate to have a future to think about, and to be able to thank those who supported him.
Initially sceptical when his dad suggested talking publicly about his recovery, Aaron changed his mind when he realised it might help families living with the same uncertainty his own once had.
"When I was in a pretty bad state in the hospital [my parents] found solace in other people's stories. And I was like, 'Ah, okay. If I share my story, maybe I can help somebody else'."
He knows encouraging people to not give up hope is also telling them to take a more vulnerable path, Hanson says.
The outcome for their loved one might not be the same as his son's.
"It might be easy for me to say that now.
"But I would say that it's always worth hoping. It's worth hanging on to the fact that there are a lot of miraculous stories of people who have recovered.
"People like Aaron."
Art auction underway
The auction of five of Phil Hanson's New Zealand landscape paintings, with all proceeds split between the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and ABI Rehabilitation Services, has begun and will remain open until Sunday, February 27. To see the catalogue, and make a bid, go to rescuehelicopter.org.nz