Seven scoops the ratings pool with Matthew Ames’ heart-warming tale of survival

Sunday Night … Amputee Matthew Ames with his wife Diane, and their three sons and young daughter. Water therapy .. Matt Ames frequently exercises in the pool.

Becoming the bionic man

A special episode of Channel Seven’s flagship current affairs program, Sunday Night — devoted entirely to a man who had both arms and legs surgically removed — drew more than 2.12 million viewers nationally.

It was the second most-watch program last night behind Seven’s The X Factor, which had 2.35 million viewers – and well ahead of arch-rival 60 Minutes on Nine, which had 1.32 million. (Figures reflect combined metropolitan and regional audiences.)

The Sunday Night episode, titled ‘Bionic Dad’ and presented by veteran reporter Mike Willesee, told the story of Matthew Ames, his wife Diane and their four children.

Twenty years after Matthew and Diane fell in love at university, he came down with what he thought was a bout of “man flu”. But his agony intensified and after visiting four different doctors, who each sent him back to bed, his family took him to hospital.

He was diagnosed with toxic shock from Streptococcus A – a normally harmless bacteria that can turn fatal if it gets into the bloodstream – and was soon in a coma. Doctors amputated Matthew’s left arm but the infection continued to spread.

It was then the specialists forced Diane to make a grim choice. They gave her husband a tiny one per cent chance of survival – but they had to remove his three remaining limbs to give him that chance. Diane did not hesitate to consent, but took their children to the hospital to say goodbye to their father before his extremely risky operation.

Incredibly, Matthew survived, emerging from the coma to find he had no arms or legs.

The program showed that although the bond between Matthew and his family has deepened, his battle is far from over. Because he was not injured at work or in a traffic accident, he has fallen through the cracks of the disability support system. In order to feed himself and go to the toilet without assistance, he needs prosthetics that cost more than $500,000, for which a fund has been established.

The story of the Ames family’s courage has helped Seven dominate the top three ratings slots of the night, with its 6pm news bulletin taking third place with 1.85 million viewers.

Nine claimed the next three spots with its 6pm bulletin at No. 4 (1.66 million); Australia’s Got Talent at No. 5 (1.49 million); and 60 Minutes at No. 6.

US crime comedy-drama Bones took seventh place for Seven with 1.27 million.

At No. 8 was ABC1’s 7pm news bulletin with 1.23 million and its documentary series Supersized Earth took the ninth spot with 1.1 million.

Channel Ten had one program in the top 10: the second episode of US sitcom Modern Family at No. 10 with 1.07 million.

The top-rating morning program was Weekend Sunrise on Seven with an audience of 358,000 in the five major capital cities, while Weekend Today on Nine had 272,000. (All figures from this point are for the five capital cities only as full regional ratings are not yet available.)

ABC’s political program Insiders had a combined audience of 312,000 in its various slots while Ten’s The Bolt Report had 204,000.

The top-rating digital channel program was Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom on ABC2 with 250,000.

Overall, the Seven network had a 36.3 per cent share of the audience, followed by Nine on 25.5 per cent and Ten on 19 per cent. The ABC channels claimed 14.5 per cent and the SBS channels had 4.8 per cent.

The top-rating individual channel was Seven with a 28.2 per cent share, followed by Nine on 20 per cent, Ten on 13.4 per cent, ABC1 on 10.7 per cent and SBS One on 4.1 per cent.

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