The Truth About Surviving a Farming Accident

MY TRUE STORY!  It was almost 4 years ago that our world came crashing down one sunny day.  Thankfully my husband did survive an on-farm ATV quad bike accident.  But a broken back resulted in him being laid up, leaving a 2000 acre property with livestock to manage.  It was with the support of our 2 sons that we managed through this ordeal.  We battled on, worked together, took on challenges and supported each other at a crucial time in all our lives.  It was at this time that I realised how lucky I was and how grateful I was to have a wonderful family.

Accidents happen ever so easily but unexpected.  As my husband travelled up a usual steep track to muster sheep, with a bit of extra weight of a new dog on the back and ever so quickly, the quad bike tipped.  A split decision to stay with the bike rather than bail out, was to save his new dog that was tied on the back.  Possibly in hindsight, not the best decision.  At some point he was thrown to the ground and watched in shock, dreading the outcome of his dog’s survival as the quad bike toppled over and over to the bottom of the gully.  He tried to walk, collapsing several times, but then he could see his dog sitting back on the seat of his bike waiting for his owner to join him again.  He felt relief for his companion, and crumpled to the ground once again.

Meanwhile, we are still mustering sheep for drenching and oblivious of the misfortune awaiting us all.  Somehow, without justification, he managed to mount his quad bike and slowly ride to the stockyards, then succumbed to the pain a final time.  I remember him being angry and frustrated that his “slight” injury was an inconvenience to the workload waiting for him at the stockyards.  He was outraged that I wanted to go to the house to call an ambulance.  His ill-temper instructed that he just needed to rest a bit then he will be fine.  I should have seen the sign… I only ever recall him becoming angry like this when he got kicked in the side of the head by a cow many years before and ended up with a concussion.  He has this notion to not waste the time of emergency services for a “little” injury.  Why is it that male farmers make the worst patients?

Everything then became a pandemonium, as 2 ambulances and 3 ambulance officers attended the scene and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service had been organised to transport him to Tamworth Hospital.  It felt like I was in a whirlwind of emotions… unable to comfort him, upset with myself for not being confident to take charge sooner, scared and worried about his future.  He was still talking about those “bloody” sheep that still needed drenching.

When confronted with the news that he had broken his back and the realisation that this is a very serious injury, his luck was substantiated with his survival.  Resulting in a back brace fitted, he was able to move about somewhat, but bed-ridden for 4 months allowing his spine to heal.  Only several days later he returned home, with strict instructions and an extensive care plan.  With me taking on the role as his live-in home-care nurse (without the sexy nurse costume!) and armed with his special hospital furniture aids, we tried to continue life as normal as possible.  Daily sponge baths became the norm and my life revolved around that “bloody” little bell ringing from the bedroom, alerting me it was time to “suit him up” with his back brace and get him up.  I take my hat off to all nurses, a job I would not have the patience for.  Four long months of dependency, monotony listening and trying to understand his frustrations, nearly drove me insane.

There were 2 great things that eventuated from my husband’s accident.  I was able to see the responsibility and support shown by our 2 sons.  Without their constant support, I don’t think we would have survived it all.

My eldest son, was surprisingly a pillar of emotional support.  He had been currently studying and working at the Defence Force, but was home on holidays at the time.  At 19 years of age, he just took charge and drove me to the hospital 3 ½ hours away and kept me grounded and focused.  We had no idea what was to come and how long we would need to be down there and my head was a complete mess.  To have his support those few days when I was at my weakest point with worry, was a god-send, giving me the strength to do what had to be done.

Simultaneously, back at the farm, my youngest son at only 17 years of age, took charge and drenched all of the sheep and carried on with the day’s tasks, worrying quietly about what might eventuate with his Dad.  Upon us all returning home, he stepped up and took on a managerial role with operating our farming business over the next 4 months.  He was still in his final year at high school and completing his HSC so it was a very crucial time for him.  Nevertheless he managed it all… a large property, livestock, machinery and still did very well in his HSC with great results and state-level agricultural and industrial technology commendations.  How on earth would I have managed it all without him?  He never ceases to amaze me, just how versatile and resilient he really is.

Ultimately we all survived this very stressful, frightening and tiresome time by relying on our strong family support.  I am ever so grateful to the angels watching over my husband that day ensuring his survival.  I knew it was far too early to take this great man from us.  He incredibly recovered, now walking with no limitations and his back is strong once again.  We also invested in a side-by-side farm vehicle for safety purposes which has also proved to be a more versatile on-farm vehicle.

The strength that our 2 sons gave us during this time, I am so thankful for.  We are so proud of the young men they have grown into and I am blessed to be able to share this “happy” outcome with you today.

Take care, Karen.

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

~ Robert H. Schuller



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