My name is Michael and I'd like to share a story with you.
On the Queen's Birthday weekend of 1986 my younger brother, Stephen, our mates Gerard and Martin and myself made our annual boy's weekend trip to Albury. I was 22, Stephen was 20, Gerard was 22 and Martin was 21. After a long weekend of drinking and partying we headed back to Melbourne to return to work. Martin drove Gerard's car with my brother, Gerard and I as passengers.
As we travelled along the Hume Highway on 9th June 1986 with all the other people returning to Melbourne nothing seemed unusual. Then something would happen that would change my life forever.
The Hume Highway is a dual highway, separated by a medium strip. Travelling in the opposite direction to us was a semi-trailer. The semi-trailer lost control and jackknifed across the hwy, collecting four cars on its way. Unfortunately for us, we were one of those cars.
The rest is unclear, as I have no memory of the incidents leading up to the accident or after it. I can only tell you what Police, Ambulance Officers, Family, witnesses and hospital staff have told me. At the time of the accident blood alcohol tests were carried out on all of us, none of us had any trace of alcohol in our blood.
It is unknown to me whether I was thrown from the car or if I bailed before the truck hit us, all I know is I was found by a family friend, face down in the water filled culvert, who happened to be travelling in a car behind us with her family,. If that person had not thought to turn me over I would have died at the scene of the accident.
I was rushed to the Royal Melbourne Hospital where I spent 2 weeks in Intensive Care. The hospital staff were unable to tell my family whether I was going to survive or not. The injuries caused me to loose 80% of my blood and I was pumped full of morphine by an IV drip. I drifted uncomfortably in and out of consciousness, scared and confused as to what was happening. I had a tracheotomy, my leg was shattered, I had a split pallet and my teeth were being held together with wires.
Soon the news came, Gerard, a passenger in the car, had been killed in the accident. My baby brother, my closest mate had also been killed. Martin and I were the only survivors. In and out of consciousness I tried to deal with the fact that I had lost a mate and my brother.
With my parents unsure if I was going to survive my injuries they tried to act brave and support me. All along dealing with their own grief. When the time came to burying my brother Stephen, they purchased 2 plots next to each other in case I didn't make it. Can you imagine what that must have felt like?
I then contracted a staph infection and was put in the isolation unit. All visitors had to wear gowns and masks when they came to see me. I then spent a total of 6 months in The Royal Melbourne Hospital. My weight dropped to 48 kilo's as I stopped eating. I was covered in bedsores, as I couldn't move. I had another operation and spent 6 weeks recovering.
After this I was moved to The Hampton Rehabilitation Hospital. I spent a few weeks there as an in-patient. Then 6 months as an outpatient. I was in a wheelchair, unable to walk from June 1987 til 1988.
Before the accident I lived a normal life as a young guy, playing footy, going to parties and spending time with my girlfriend of 4 years. After the accident, I lost my brother, a mate, my girlfriend and my freedom.
Now, over 20 years later, I live independently. I've travelled all over the world. Play lawn bowls, go to the gym, enjoy gardening and I still go to the pub. This will never compare to the life I could have had if I hadn't had the accident. I would give anything to go back and change what happened that day.
I have left side hemiplegia, this means the left side of my body doesn't work properly, from an acquired brain injury, I can't drive, I can't run and I have no brother.
By sharing this with you I hope to make you think about a few things. I had this accident 16 years ago, I still have these disabilities, and they will never go away. I have no brother - my family has lost a brother and a son.
Remember that you don't need to be doing anything wrong to be involved in an accident. When you get your learners or your licence, be careful out there, it is dangerous. Thank you.