When Accidents Happen (Part 1)

It was November 30th 2008, a typical Sunday, around 7-8am. I was out mountain biking with my house mate and one of his friends on a slightly overcast day at Daisy Hill, Queensland. Just another weekend ride!

We were sweating it out for about 1.5 hours when we came to our second last trail for the morning. I took the lead down a wide fire break. It with a fairly average decline, which I would typically manage with ease, but not on this particular trail. There were all kinds of bad elements rolled into one. As Murphy’s Law states; “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. Speed, loose gravel, a sudden narrowing of the trail, a sharp turn, a ditch, a tree root, and a rapid decline were all crammed into the one spot waiting for me.

I remember approaching the turn and at the last couple of meters I hit the brakes. The back tyre locked and swung out. The next thing I knew I was about 4 meters in the air with no bike underneath me. Everything turned into slow-motion. As I looked down I could see the ground getting big, and bigger, and bigger. I braced myself as I would with any fall from the bike. THUD! I remember making impact and having the air knocked out of me; a dense crunching noise shuddering through me. I blanked out only for a split second. I’m still not sure exactly how I landed but judging from the cracks on the helmet and the scars on my shoulder, I’d say I landed head first.

It was a sudden stop. I didn’t bounce, I didn’t flip, and I didn’t tumble or roll – my body just stopped. I lay on the ground in a foetal position (left side to be exact).

Now, when we take a tumble we just get up again, and that’s exactly what my brain was telling me to do – but my body didn’t move. The adrenaline was pumping and my mind was racing. I kept telling myself “get up, get up… get up”. It didn’t take long to realise that something was wrong. I couldn’t feel anything below my waist. I thought ‘shit, my legs have been torn off’.

I recall turning my head slightly to see my house mate behind me throwing his bike to the side and running straight down towards me. “Call an ambulance, call an ambulance” I yelled out.

Something was wrong.

It felt like my body was going to slide down the gravely hill, so I clenched onto a tree stump with my left hand and didn’t let go… at least I thought it was a tree stump. My house mate’s friend had arrived, kneeled down next to me and supported my head. I remember asking him what happened to my legs. I looked down to the tree stump I thought I was holding, but it was my leg.

Something was wrong.

My house mate ran back to get his mobile phone while I was still in the same foetal position. The sun was peeping through the tall forest trees and it felt like there was a magnified glass directed at my face. My lips were dry, my skin was burning, my neck was aching, my mind was confused, and a pain I had never felt before started to creep in.

Something was wrong.

It’s true, when you are in a life threating situation, you have flash backs. Not the Hollywood type, but the jagged, fragmented and confusing type. I thought about my family, my friends, my girlfriend, my internal organs, my legs, and God.

I looked down and I could see my thick red blood trickling down my arms and seeping around the heavy gravel, soaking into the dirt. I started repeating a silent prayer until my house mate was on the line with emergency. They were asking all kinds of questions. How much pain was I in, was it hard to breath, was I getting light headed or nauseous, and where was the pain, and so on. I wanted a drink so badly, but all I was allowed was a few drops of water to wet my lips. No water allowed?

Something was wrong.

I assumed the worst and kept telling myself to stay alive until an ambulance arrived. It took an ambulance about 30 minutes to arrive (or at least it felt that long). I remember hearing the siren in the distance and thinking ‘that’s my hearse arriving’. It was a strange feeling of relief and fear at the same time. I waited, waited, and waited for the ambulance to get to me –it didn’t.

By now there were a few passer byers whose leisurely Sunday ride with their children was rudely interrupted by a man who nearly killed himself. They gathered around to help. I’m not sure who did what at the time, but since the ambulance vehicle couldn’t reach far enough through the terrain someone had to direct the paramedics to me by foot.

Two paramedics were first on the scene. The first one Matthew, the second one was a lady whose name I forgot. I was shocked at how ridiculously calm they were when approaching me. They didn’t panic, yell or run like crazy as you would see on movies.

The oxygen mask went on. Questions were asked. Morphine was injected. More questions were asked. My body was examined. The neck brace came on. The helmet slowly came off. A sharp pair of scissors was presented to me and my clothes and camel pack were cut off.

The paramedic started to examine me further. Touching various parts of my body and asking me how it felt. He asked me to wriggle my toes. I did. He asked me again, I told him I was. There was a pause. Why couldn’t I feel my toes and why did he go silent?

Something was wrong.

After about 20 minutes and two other site doctors arriving to assess me, I was carefully and painfully rolled onto a hard stretcher. The paramedics radioed in to the hospital to give them the initial diagnosis. One thing really stood out “23 year old male… protrusion in the lower back”, and that’s when the buck dropped. I knew something in my back was broken, but I still didn’t comprehend what this meant and if there was something damaged internally that they didn’t know about.

I was informed that the medivac helicopter couldn’t pull me out since the forest was too dense with trees. Instead I had to be stretchered out. My house mate, complete strangers and medical staff all helped lift me up and carry me about 50 meters to where the vehicle was stationed.

I really did it now!

I remember that drive out of the trails. It was all up hill, very bumpy and the ambulance wheels kept loosing traction. More morphine had to be shot into me as every small bump felt like someone was slogging my torso with a hammer. I remember thinking to myself, ‘who is this paramedic?’, ‘what family does he have?’ and ‘why is he bothering to save me?’

I was rushed to Princess Alexandria Hospital in Brisbane, Queensland where I was sent in for a bunch of CT and x-ray scans, and then into an emergency operation to stabilise my back. I remember my friends being there, my work mate, and the phone call to my parents before I went under. Mum was hysterical. I’ve upset my parents previously, but this was like a dagger to their heart. I eventually said goodbye, hung the phone up and broke down crying.

I signed some blurry forms, said some goodbyes and entered the operating theatre.

Lights out!

 Part 2 – The Nightmare Ward >>

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