The road to recovery

Date published

26 Sep 2016

It was meant to be a weekend of fun and relaxation, but when their ute rolled on a lonely stretch of road late at night, Mount Isa residents Nick Tompsett and his 24-year-old-son Jarad Cole found that things don't always go according to plan.

My son Jarad and I had been planning a few days' camping and crabbing with a couple of his work mates. After a couple of false starts due to the weather, we finally set out on the afternoon of Friday 10 February. My mouth was watering in anticipation of cooking up some beautiful muddies.

Jarad's boss had lent us his tray back ute, and by about 5.00pm everything was loaded and off we went to meet up with the other boys just out of town. There was no rush - we had a number of stops along the way and stayed a fair distance back to avoid choking on their dust.

By 9pm Jarad had been driving for some time and we decided to swap drivers. We carried on at a steady speed, taking it carefully because there were deep, dried up wheel ruts in the side of the road from the wet season.

At around 10.30pm a herd of cattle came running across the road in front of me. I swerved slightly to avoid them and applied the brakes, but the front wheel dropped into a wheel rut and we went into a Ferris wheel roll and flipped the vehicle.

I remember being knocked unconscious momentarily and when I came to, I couldn't breathe. I must have been winded, but all of a sudden my lungs filled with air and Jarad was able to pull me through the window to a safer distance and assess our injuries. All I know is that we were both alive and although I had some major back injuries, it was a small price to pay considering.

Jarad had two rifles with him and he let off every round and lit a fire in an attempt to attract some attention from somewhere. Although he had sustained a number of egg-sized bumps on his head and had a sore neck and shoulder, he was definitely my rock.

We were in such a desolate and isolated area, we could not be sure of when someone might come along. I am not sure how long it was but eventually Jarad said he could see headlights coming in our direction.

It was three men in an old LandCruiser with no exhaust. Jarad asked them if they could drive on further and try to find our travelling companions and get them to come back. They did and returned about 20 minutes later and told us they couldn't find them. They then offered to use their vehicle to roll ours over onto its wheels with the assistance of chains.

Another vehicle, driven by the son of a station owner approximately 15 to 20 kilometres up the road, then came by. They loaded up both vehicles with all our debris and helped me into the front passenger seat of their vehicle. The driver said, "Don't worry, when we get you home my mum's got some good stuff that'll fix you up."

He was so good and drove no faster than 10 kilometres per hour to avoid the bumps and to not aggravate my injuries.

When we arrived at the homestead his mother was on the phone to the Flying Doctor, who gave her instructions on administering morphine to me by injection. Fortunately, the station had a Flying Doctor medical chest. The doctor then arranged for an ambulance from Burketown to come to the homestead, a distance of about 80 kilometres.

Other station hands returned to the scene of the accident and towed our vehicle back to the homestead. These station people were so wonderful and caring, I fight to find the right words to express our gratitude for everything they did for us.

The ambulance then took Jarad and me another 45 kilometres to Gregory Station where we were met by the Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft. The doctor, nurses, ambulance officers and pilot showed just how professional they were in my hours of need. Even though we were in such an isolated area, and despite the injuries we sustained, I have never felt so at ease knowing I was in the hands of the most wonderful caring medical team. I am not just saying that, because they really do care about their patients.

During my nine days of hospitalisation at Mount Isa, a nurse thought I would like to know that the doctor from the RFDS had rung the hospital on two separate occasions asking how my condition was. Again, I was overwhelmed by his professionalism and caring nature, and his concern for a patient even though I was now out of his hands.

My injuries were a compression fracture of the lower spine, three fractured bones on the right side of the spine, the shoulder joint torn from its socket, severe bruising to the right side of my back, six lacerations to the rear of my head and one on my forehead and a sprained left ankle.

Just in case you are wondering, I did ask the doctor and the pilot if it was possible to divert to our original destination to catch some crabs seeing as we were so close. Unfortunately they said they had to decline my request but were impressed that I still had my sense of humour.

Two years on, Nick is seeing a physiotherapist for his back but is grateful his son escaped without any serious injuries. They both hope to make it fishing one day in the not too distant future.