The Day I Died.
The true story about a life-altering event in 2015, the first time I died.
Image by: Michael Liversage for this article.
I see the truck bearing down on us out of the corner of my eye; I consider dropping our weight to my right, dropping down a few gears, and opening that throttle up, red-lining the girl in an attempt to get away.
I had just gotten home from work, and my fiance of 10 days was almost ready. The day before, I’d said we would go somewhere for a drink and a bite to eat and swing by one of my offsite warehouses. I didn’t want to, though; I just wanted to lie down after a full-on day. I averaged 30 thousand steps daily at my job, which was physically demanding.
Today had been busier than usual, and I was tired. Looking back, I think it was my gut telling me not to go, but I knew she’d been looking forward to getting out of the house. So we geared up and jumped on my Hyosung 650cc, and off we went.
The warehouse was going to be the first stop. Fifteen minutes away, at the most. I slowed down as we approached the roundabout; a bus was going straight through, across our path. Remember that we are in Australia, and we drive on the left-hand side. I looked to my right; nothing was coming at all. I glanced to my left as I started opening up the throttle and leaning; as we entered the roundabout, I saw the truck approaching and dismissed it as I went to open her up further; I’ve got right of way; he’s not even at the roundabout as I’ve entered. Halfway through, a split second in time, I see the truck bearing down on us out of the corner of my eye; I consider dropping our weight to my right, dropping down a few gears and really opening that throttle up, red-lining the girl in an attempt to get away. Instantly I realised there was no getting away from this. I sit upright, turning my body, and putting my left arm behind me in an attempt to shield my fiance. It all seemed to happen so fast, yet I remember considering two courses of action, dismissing the first, which was flight, trying to get us away from the danger.
A little voice in the back of my mind said, “Your helmet came off”.
The second one was fight, so I faced that truck and tried to protect my fiance. I don’t recall the impact. I was aware we’d been hit as I flew through the air. My helmet flew off on impact; I recall swearing a lot. I was instantly angry. I remember seeing the windscreen of the truck as I passed by. I like to think I was swearing at him. A little voice in the back of my mind said to me, “Your helmet came off”.
As I landed, I tucked my chin to my chest, and the back of my head scraped the road lightly. I came to a stop under the front bumper of a car, waiting to enter the roundabout. I was still conscious and very aware. I was also furious, I called out to Brandi, my fiance, but there was no response. So, thinking she was dead, I tried to get up. Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far.
I remember screaming in agony, searing white pain exploding throughout my body. I fell back, not that I’d gotten far off the ground. I elbowed the road in frustration. First, people tried to tell me she was okay, but I knew they were lying. Then they said she was alive, just unconscious. I stopped calling out then.
It was then I felt I had to take my jacket off. The bystanders started saying don’t move, leave it on.
I snapped, “I’m taking my fucking jacket off!”
I was so angry.
As I struggled to get my jacket off, a guy helped me, and my phone fell out. He asked if there was anyone he could call. As I had just moved to Sydney from Perth, my emergency contacts were on the other side of the country.
So I said, give it here. I unlocked my phone and called my boss, it was after hours, but I knew he’d answer.
“I’ve just been hit by a truck.”
What? He asked.
“I’ve just been hit by a fucking truck.”
He asked where I was. I told him. Then I think I hung up with my cheek accidentally. So I texted him where I was in case he didn’t hear me.
The ambulance arrived, and the paramedic got out to a scene of me texting. Who does that, right? Just been hit by a truck while on a motorbike. But wait, I can’t die yet; I need to text the boss.
I’m kidding, he didn’t say that.
The paramedic took my phone off me. At this point, I told him I felt a lot of pressure in my chest, and I felt like I was burning up. Fortunately for me, he rode motorbikes and saw his fair share of accidents. He called for the helicopter straight away.
Little did I know the extent of my injuries were so severe; I was dying, and that man just saved my life. The fact that I was still conscious and not in shock surprises many people. At this point, though, my mind allowed me to relax a little, for want of a better way to describe it. I knew the medics were there; I knew my fiance was in their hands, as was I. Then the pain really hit me. I was crying out. I was begging them to hurry up with my pain meds, something, anything. Just knock me the fuck out.
I still didn’t know, of course, how bad things were. I had over 24 different breaks and fractures throughout my body. I say over 24, as I had a few shattered joints. I say my leg bone was broken; it wasn’t just one break at the site; each location had multiple breaks.
I had snapped the left leg just above the ankle. It was a compound fracture, both fibula and tibia. The police report described it as at a 90-degree angle away from the body. Both bones were broken up at the top, just below the kneecap. The left kneecap was shattered, but mainly, just in half, vertically. My left hip was dislocated, and the head of the femur was snapped in half almost horizontally.
My right leg, the fibula and tibia were also broken top and bottom. None of the breaks were clean, in that the tibia had multiple breaks in one location. The fibula for the left, because it was broken top and bottom, had shunted up beside the top of the fibula still attached to the knee area.
I had broken about 6 ribs on my left and 3 or 4 on my right. In addition, I shattered my left shoulder blade; the picture below is a 3D image of the shattered shoulder blade. What do you see? Oh, and I had fractured 2 of my vertebrae.
I had punctured my left lung. The killer, though, I had torn my descending aorta. My heart surgeon says I shredded it. This injury alone, at the time, I believe, had a 2% survival rate. 80% will die at the scene. Mainly because there are no outward indicators of the injury, the victim is either unconscious or in shock and unresponsive due to the nature of trauma required to cause such an injury. Of those that make it to the hospital alive, so 20% of that lot, a further 80% will die on the operating table. It’s heart surgery under severe trauma and usually a fair bit of blood loss.
So he called for the helicopter. Started tending to my injuries, the one bleeding externally. Doing whatever else they do. Finally, he gave me some pain medication. It took hours. So it probably took 5 minutes. I don’t know how long I was there, but it FELT like forever. I said to him...
“Dude, seriously, how long is it going to take? I’m fucking dying here.”
Not knowing that I was literally dying. Every beat of my heart was pumping blood directly into my chest cavity. The descending aorta is the main aorta that feeds blood to the body. While I’ve also got a punctured lung.
I’m honestly glad I didn’t know. I got loaded up into the back of the ambulance.
But wait, wasn’t I going in a helicopter? Yes, yes, I was. They couldn’t land at the accident scene. So I had to be driven in the ambulance 200-odd metres (650-odd feet) down the road to be loaded in the helicopter. I don’t remember any of that.
The last thing I remember. After being loaded into the ambulance, was asked.
“Have we got everything? Do you need anything?”
“Yeah. I need a fucking beer.”
The medic looked at me as I passed out.
Okay, this body is done. Grind it up and move the soul on.
So the next thing I remember. I wake up in this white room. So bright that I can’t see where the walls meet each other or where the walls meet the ceiling. It’s bright, but it doesn’t hurt my eyes. I can’t move, and I remember everything from the accident, but I’m feeling no pain. Hell, I can’t feel anything. I also can’t move. I can look around by rolling my eyes, but that’s it, and it’s all white. In the background, I hear machinery operating; it’s like cogs, wheels, crunching and grinding. It’s weird. Then clear as day, I hear voices approaching. There’s only one thing I can make out.
“Okay, this body is done. Grind it up and move the soul on.”
I don’t remember what the response was. I didn’t care what the response was. I remember trying to shout, “Nooooooo”. All I could think of was my daughter. I am not leaving my daughter without a father. That was the last thing I remember trying to say. Now I know how this sounds. I know all the different kinds of explanations for it. I am not attributing anything to it. It’s just what I remember. We will come back to it in a bit.
I woke up in the hospital 6 days later. With tubes down my throat. In my neck. In my chest. In my side. I was connected to a crazy number of machines.
I had what is called an ex-fix. It’s a metal frame called an external fixation. It was around my left leg, from my heel to my thigh. Rods go through your muscle and into your bone. I had it going through my thigh, my shin and my heel. Probably more places; I still have the indents in my legs.
My right leg was wrapped from the ankle to above my knee, and I could see blood seeping through. I will spare you the gory pictures.
My fiance came to visit me the next day after the tubes down my throat were removed. Being intubated, my friends, is not a pleasant experience.
My fiance wasn’t as severely injured, but bad enough. She had dislocated her left hip, and her left leg just below the knee; well, she was lucky it hadn’t been severed through. She busted the little bones in her eardrum, causing a 70% loss of hearing in her left ear and a compound fracture in her hand.
I spent 2 months in hospital, roughly. The first month was pretty tough. I couldn’t do anything for myself. I couldn’t leave the bed. So going to the toilet was not a pleasant experience or private. Required 3 nurses to roll me onto my left side. My left side was the one that was most damaged and painful.
The accident happened on 20th October 2015. I left the hospital the week of Christmas that year. They were talking about moving me to another hospital as the rehab hospital I’d spent the second month at was shutting down for Christmas break. Yes, you read that correctly. I said the only reason I was leaving this hospital was to go home. My fiance had already left the week before. I’d had enough—more than enough.
I found out a year later that I’d also snapped a tendon at the front of my right foot. By then, it was too late to do anything. They could go in, cut it and lengthen it, but that would also weaken it. That was after they had opened me up to have a look, thinking it was just something catching or scar tissue that they could tidy up. They closed me back up and told me my options when I woke up. I told them to leave it.
It’s good to see you. We didn’t think you’d make it.
Come January 2016. I had to go get my heart checked. First, I had to drink this dye, which made all my arteries etc light up on a scan. Doesn’t taste nice. Doesn’t make you become The Hulk, either. Then once the results were in, go see my heart surgeon.
When I get to his office, I’m sitting in my wheelchair. I had to use that thing all the way up to April, from memory. So I’m sitting there waiting, and I see a guy walk across the hallway from an office, stop, do a bit of a double-take, and walk back into his office. I had no idea who he was. Until we got called into his office. He stood up, shook my hand and said,
“It’s really good to see you. We didn’t think you’d make it.”
This was the first time I got told I had died on the operating table. My fiance started having a panic attack. I know, right? I was the one that died. When the heart surgeon says that, one of the best in the country, you know how serious it was. I had shredded my descending aorta. I’m also the second rarest blood group on the planet, with my son being the rarest, 1.5% and 0.6% of the population, respectively.
Give blood, people, and if you are like me, you should give plasma.
Australians call 131495 or visit donateblood.com.au
Americans visit redcrossblood.org
That afternoon I’m having a beer with my housemate, and I tell him about my visit to my heart surgeon and how he told me I’d died. He says,
“Well yeah, a doctor came out to see me when I got to the hospital that evening. He told me you had died once on the operating table already, they’d managed to bring you back but wanted to know what to do if you went again.”
“I said, umm, whatever you can? I don’t know, I’ve only known him for 2 months.”
I just stared at him. 5 months after the event, I found out not only that I’d died but that the surgeons, experts in their field, didn’t think I’d make it. That was when the death experience I had came flooding back. I got goosebumps throughout my entire body right then. I told him what I had experienced. He just stared at me, beer halfway to his mouth.
“Get fucked. Are you serious?” was all he could say.
I don’t call it a near-death experience. That’s because I died. I don’t believe that people charged with negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm should get off so lightly. He killed me. Nothing he did, saved my life. That was the paramedics, the nurses, the doctors, the surgeons and my stubborn nature. It’s nearly 6 years later, and I’m still fighting. I refuse to succumb to my injuries. I refuse to give up.
I refused death. She came for me that day. She came for me again a few years later. I refused her again. But that’s another story for another day.
I’ve included some more pictures that other places I’ve published my story don’t have. Nothing too gory, I promise.
We joined a fitness group, BootCamp. Literally, the night before. As we left, they said, “See you next week” I replied, “For sure, unless I die or something happens.”
The accident scene. You can see the truck that hit us parked up on the right. The tarp being held up on the left was to where I was located, they held up tarps for privacy, but also, it started to rain as I lay there. The impact was where the police car is parked on the right. Yep, I was thrown that far on impact. A police officer asked me later, in the hospital, if I knew how high I’d been thrown. I said, not really, I do remember looking in his windscreen on the way up. My fiance was on the other side of the ambulance.
Here is the x-ray of my chest after the stent was put in to fix my aorta. You can see those squiggly lines, looks like one of those old finger traps. It’s roughly the length of 5 vertebrae.
You can see more of my xrays at The Day I Died