Saved as the sun was setting

Date published

05 Nov 2015

Deane Wehrmann doesn't recall going over the ramp into the Mutawintji National Park, north east of Broken Hill. Neither does he recall his first motorbike accident, shortly thereafter, when an emu decided to cross the road at the wrong time for both of them.

Luckily he was riding with a small group of friends, albeit a smaller group than he first began doing long bike trips with. On previous trips one had hit a cow, and another a kangaroo and the number wishing to take their chances on the open road had dwindled. Fortunately Deane was wearing protective clothing and a neckbrace, which saved his life, and he was also carrying a small card which noted his allergies, medication and identification.

A mate of Deane's had been riding almost beside him and had managed to miss the emu so was able to turn and phone for an ambulance. As Deane had ended up in a deep gutter, he had to alternate between tending to Deane and getting back up on the road to catch a phone signal. "I was just home doing housework when the phone rang," says Lyn, Deane's wife. "It was a very scratchy call, it kept dropping out and I ended up sitting on the phone trying to find out what had happened from 1.25pm to 11pm that night. I'm not a panicker and had to stay calm until I found out the full story of what was really going on." At the Flying Doctor base at Broken Hill, Dr Catherine Palmqvist took a call from an ambulance officer who had arrived at the site of the accident and was concerned about the potential extent of Deane's injuries and the time it would take them to get him back to Broken Hill by road. "Fortunately they'd found the card my wife made which said I was allergic to morphine," says Deane. "They'd gone through my saddlebag looking for the satellite phone and saw it.They had to get me out faster because they weren't able to control my pain without morphine."

"We flew out to pick him up," says Catherine.

"He was very unwell but awake and talking to us. The nice thing was that the whole time he was thanking us for coming to get him. We were very tight with time because the sun was going down and we had between five and ten minutes to treat him on the ground before we were at risk of not being able to take off again. The ambos had done a good job and my flight nurse Kate Dickinson greatly assisted in his retrieval." back at the Wehrmann's home in the Bundaleer Forest, 19kms south of Jamestown in South Australia, Lyn was phoning their three adult children to tell them what she knew.

"The youngest, Zara, who lives in Port Pirie (in South Australia), organised someone to look after her son and drove over here the next day to accompany me to Broken Hill," says Lyn.

"It was a relief to see him in hospital in Broken Hill," says Lyn. "Apart from two bad black eyes, he didn't really look too bad and he was talking and everything
and that was the best part of it."

"I don't remember a lot of that time," says Deane. "I was in Broken Hill for four days then it all went to hell."

Deane had torn all the main nerves in his shoulder, running from neck to thumb, hadfractures to his face and a broken vertebrae in his back, aside of concerns about possible internal injuries.

"I had to be flown to Adelaide," says Deane. "They got me out to the airfield but the plane couldn't get up to the usual height because of the pressure affecting the fractures in my face. The weather was a bit rougher around the Adelaide Hills, too. I can't praise those guys enough. For someone who's afraid of flying they did a fantastic job of getting me there."

Deane is still recovering from the accident at home and can't lift his arm further than 20 degrees, though time should bring some improvement. However he has no plans to give up bike riding, in fact he'd bought Lyn a bike just a week before the accident, as she has always been a passenger on his bike.

"I don't smoke and I don't drink," says Deane. "Riding a bike is virtually my only recreation. I've just got to shift the emus out of the way or work out how to put a bull-bar on the bike!

"The staff were fantastic," says Deane of both the Ambulance and RFDS. Lyn also singles out RFDS doctor Catherine Palmqvist for special praise. "The doctor kept me informed and they certainly made my daughter and myself feel better about it." "We're thinking of going back up to Broken Hill to have a look where it all happened when I'm a bit better," says Deane. "Plus I'd like to have a look at the Flying Doctor base. Somehow or other I ended up with one of their blankets chucked into my bag. I'd like to take that back to them and thank them."