IT was a tiny gesture, but it meant the world to his worried parents.
On an internet video link, Terry Dukes put his thumb up when his mum and dad told him he was coming home.
It came after four months of utter torment for Johnny and Jane Dukes, of Bembridge Drive, Hayling Island, as their beloved son hung on to life in a hospital 7,000 miles away in Borneo.
The elderly couple were also faced with the prospect of having to raise more than £100,000 to bring the desperately-ill 49-year-old home.
But, as reported in The News yesterday, the Sultan of Brunei stepped in to pay for Terry to be flown back by air ambulance to continue life-saving treatment on his head injury, sustained after tripping over on a pavement.
Mrs Dukes fought back tears as she described the moment Terry realised he was coming home.
‘We have seen him on Skype,’ she said
‘We speak to him, but he’s not spoken to us since the accident.
‘When we spoke to him yesterday, his girlfriend Nami asked him if he understood. He put his thumb up.
‘We couldn’t believe it. We were so thrilled – it was marvellous.’
Terry, who has been working in South East Asia for the last two decades as a diver, was left in a coma after tripping over on a pavement and fracturing his skull.
With no medical insurance, all his possessions had to be sold to pay for numerous operations at Ripas Hospital, Brunei – including removing part of his skull to relieve pressure on his brain.
He could not be flown home on a commercial flight as he was too ill. So his cousin, Guardian journalist Carole Jahme, wrote to the Sultan.
To the family’s surprise, he agreed to cover the transport bill on a specialist air ambulance.
Mrs Dukes, 88, who had her passport renewed on her 88th birthday as she prepared to travel to Borneo to nurse him, said: ‘You can’t explain the nightmare we have suffered for the last few months.
‘It was terrible to know he was so many thousands of miles away and we could not get to him.
‘The Sultan is a kind man.’
Johnny Dukes, 85, a former Labour councillor for Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘I can almost smile again.
‘That man has done us the biggest favour.
‘He may not realise what he has done to our spirits but he’s given Terry a wonderful chance of a lift back home.’
Terry is scheduled to return to Southampton Airport on Sunday and will be taken by ambulance to Wessex Neurological Centre.