Kyogle's ‘walking miracle'
LIONEL ROY was cutting grass up the back of his Roseberry Creek property, north-west of Kyogle, in 1983 when he hit a stump and flipped his tractor.
The rear slasher landed on him, crushing his left leg and severing his right.
If it was not for the rescue helicopter, established just one year earlier, he would have died.
“I was more dead than alive,” said the grateful cocky at the reunion of pastpatients of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter at the Lismore helibase yesterday.
“I remember lying there and my initial overwhelming desire was simply to be able to see my kids have children.”
Mr Roy had four young children then aged from seven to 13.
By a miracle of fate, and the prevailing breeze, his voice carried to the farmhouse across the valley almost a kilometre away where his wife, Mandy, heard his cries for help.
She jumped on the farm bike and rode up to find her husband bleeding to death.
She tied off both legs with bale twine that happened to be on the bike and raced back to call triple-0, having the presence of mind to say she needed the helicopter.
At that time the rescue crew were at the airport showing off their new helicopter when the call came in.
Again, as fate would have it, a crew member knew where Roseberry Creek was and they were on the scene within an hour.
Having lost a critical amount of blood it still looked grim for Mr Roy.
Long- time mate Elton Cummings, a driving force in establishing the service, chipped in.
“Lionel is a walking miracle,” he said. “He shouldn't be alive.
“He was so lucky. We had just purchased a hi-tech MAST suit (military anti-shock trousers) designed just for this type of injury where a patient is bleeding out.
“They'd pumped every bit of fluid they had into him.
“We weren't even qualified to use the suit yet, but we decided to anyway. But it certainly saved his life and was the first time it was used outside a metropolitan area.”
Recounting those early days, Mr Cummings remembered the titanic community struggle to get the service up and keep it in the air.
“We'd put every last cent into that suit and were actually flying on borrowed fuel,” he said.
Mr Roy remembers he had about 19 blood transfusions following the ordeal.
With one prosthetic limb and a permanent limp in his remaining leg, not a day goes by without a constant reminder of that time.
“But today I have seven grandchildren and 19 counting the steps,” he said with a grin.
Amanda and Tod Falvey, from Lennox Head, also attended yesterday's reunion.
Mrs Falvey spoke eloquently of how the service saved the lives of their two sons, Jackson, 5, and Harry, 3, in separate incidents in 2008 and 2010.
Both suffered twisted bowels, a rare condition that can become fatal within hours.
“To be told your son is critical and may not survive is traumatic enough, but to have it happen a second time was completely surreal,” she said.
Mr Falvey clearly remembers the night in 2008.
“It was nerve racking. They could only take one of us with Jackson,” he said.
“They landed in the middle of a storm, but as soon as they arrived they took complete control.
“I didn't know if I'd see my son again, but their professionalism, commitment and reassurance was so comforting at the time.
“When it happened again to Harry in 2010 and we heard they were coming we felt such a huge relief.”
Mrs Falvey said now whenever the boys see the chopper in the sky they yell out, ‘there goes our helicopter'.
Cherie Chapman, from Casino, had much to share with the Falveys yesterday.
Her son Hayden, now 9, suffered the same condition when he was six months old in 2001.
“We try to do everything we can for the service that saved our son's life,” she said.
“When I hear that chopper in the sky it makes me feel really happy.”