For those who don't know me, my name is Dan Hunt.
Until 21st August 1996 I was a bit of an adventurer. I've been in the army and the merchant navy. I love the sea and was a qualified radio operator, master of a fishing vessel, diesel trawler engineer, construction diver, diving safety supervisor.
In-between months at sea, I spent months as a truckie, doing the same as other truckies do every day - ducking under the truck, walking through under the trailer and sliding in under the truck and trailer axles.
Most truckies don't give a moment's thought about the dangers that could be involved here - and you wouldn't mind if you got a dollar for every time you banged your head.
A few choice words, a good rub of the head - and you get on with the job.
I am going to tell you what happened to me...
I was doing a rush job putting new mudflaps on the front of my trailer parked out in the yard. I was meeting a mate at 1 o'clock to have lunch with him. I walked hurriedly into the workshop. It had 5 bays facing north, but only two at the western end open. I went into the second bay that was open, and in behind the third bay door was a fork lift and a trailer. I walked down the left-hand side of the trailer and jumped over the pit behind it to get the quarter inch nuts and bolts that I needed.
On the way back I remembered I'd nearly slipped backwards into the pit as I crossed it, so I did what any truckie would do without thinking - I came down the right-hand side of the trailer and just went in under it, thinking about getting the job done and meeting my mate for lunch.
The next thing I'm thinking, "What the bloody hell am I going to do now?" I was totally paralysed.
Should any of you come across somebody who's paralysed and can't move - Please do not touch them. Call an ambulance. I am a perfect example of what can happen if a person with spinal injuries is moved incorrectly.
I'd hit the towing pin, ricocheted off it and ended up slightly in front of the trailer on the left side. I landed face downwards and couldn't move. I was in a bit of a puddle but in no danger of drowning so I called out for help. The first bloke that came to me I told him, "Don't touch me. I've done something bad and I cannot move."
He said, "You'll be right mate," and grabbed my shoulders, reefed me around and dragged me two meters, then sat me up against the front wheel of the forklift that was parked behind the third bay door. I fell over to my left. The two owners came over to see what was going on and they also said, "You'll be right, Dan." They probably thought I was only stunned.
Then they both grabbed an arm and a leg and carried me 20 meters to the lunchroom. At no time was my neck supported. I was calling them everything I could think of for moving me like that. They got me to the lunchroom and one of them said,"I think you are worse than we thought you were, Dan, so we'll get you to the hospital." Bloody beauty, I thought, they are going to get me an ambulance at last. No. They bundled me into the front seat of the ute.
One of them drove me to the hospital. I had to be held in position - otherwise if the brakes went on I would fall against the dash. If we turned right I would hit the left window. If we turned left I'd fall on the driver. We got to the hospital and they went berserk. I didn't break my neck, but my spinal cord was crushed. Because of the way I was handled after the accident, I had two spinal injuries.
Had I been left alone to wait for an ambulance, it is more than likely that I could have got 100% of my functions back again. Please, do not move a person with spinal injuries unless they are in danger. God forbid that this should happen to any of you, or to people you see and know.
My only advice for someone traumatically incapacitated is to remain positive. And believe me there is another life, and a good one, with lots of challenges - but most can be defeated with a positive attitude. Good friends and developing peace of mind help too.
I hope that my being here will stick in your minds when you are working around machinery. A minuscule distraction can change your life forever.
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