Pilot escort driver, Colin Cook, never imagined a faulty gearbox in remote Western Australia would lead to his life hanging in the balance and the Royal Flying Doctor Service being despatched to help save his life.
"I've been escorting oversized vehicles throughout WA for some years, and was on a return journey to Perth from Onslow/Wheatstone," explains 65 year old Colin.
"My colleague in a second pilot vehicle had gone ahead to find a safe resting stop. But my gearbox was playing up so I'd slowed down. Then it gave up altogether, leaving me broken down between
Carnarvon and Geraldton."
A truck driver stopped and kindly offered to take Colin and his vehicle through to Geraldton, using his tilt tray as a trailer. Around 9pm that evening, as Colin stood on the trailer to steer and guide the vehicle on, he briefly lost his footing and fell off the edge.
"It was only a metre," says Colin, "but I hit my head on the bitumen, fracturing my skull, and that resulted in a brain bleed."
The truck driver called emergency services and stayed with Colin until they arrived from Carnarvon around midnight. He was taken to Northampton Hospital, stabilised here and then transported to
Early next morning, the RFDS picked Colin up. The flight crew worked to keep his condition stable while he was flown to Royal Perth Hospital's trauma unit. When he regained consciousness he was initially able to recognise only his youngest grandchild. But memories slowly came back to him, and Colin was discharged after two weeks.
Colin doesn't recall much of his ordeal. "One thing I do remember is being told the RFDS was coming, and I thought this must mean I'm in a bad way, and they're the only chance my life can be saved."
Without them, Colin believes he probably wouldn't have survived. "The doctor said my injury was similar to a 'one-punch incident' and that can easily be fatal."
Today, Colin's back at work, and thinks more about the RFDS than ever. "I've always known about them and how vital they are. But never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd need them," he notes.
Colin recently handed over a generous personal donation to the RFDS. He wants this, and his story, to highlight and acknowledge the huge part the Flying Doctor played in saving his life. "I'm so grateful to them for their critical part in my survival."
For now, Colin is focused on the future, which includes a fourth grandchild his family is waiting to welcome. "Thanks to the RFDS and everyone who was there for me, I'm now around to see my grandchildren grow up."
“I’ve now seen the plane I was flown in, and I’m amazed at the level of life saving medical equipment in there.”Colin Cook