Mum's second Christmas without her beloved son
FOR 13 days, Hervey Bay's Cindy Klienhans held her son's hand as he fought for life after a single-vehicle crash at Maleny.
Suffering horrific injuries, including a broken neck and jaw, Jake Dunn, 22, was rushed to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital after he crashed into a tree on the Maleny Stanley River Rd on September 25, 2015.
But tests revealed extensive bleeding in Jake's brain and Cindy was told there was no other option but to turn his life support off.
He died on October 8.
This year, Cindy has to face her second Christmas without her beloved son.
Her three daughters, including Jake's twin Rishell, have also had to deal with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss since his passing.
To help her cope, Cindy said Rishell pretends that Jake is just overseas on a holiday, out of touch for a while.
To deal with her own pain, Cindy has thrown herself into fighting to save the lives of others.
"I'm not going to let his death mean nothing," she said.
"It has to mean something."
She has launched a petition and wants learner drivers to complete a mandatory 20 hours of defensive driving before they can get their licence.
It's a measure she believes could have saved Jake's life.
He was killed when the car he was driving aqua-planed and he lost control.
A driver in the car behind him told Cindy he had almost regained control of the car, but overcorrected, sending himself into a collision course with the tree.
Now she is pained by how little knowledge young drivers have when they first get their P-plates.
The research she has done has revealed that one third of all young drivers will have a crash within a year of getting their P-plates and being allowed to drive alone.
And 40% of people who die on our roads are under 25.
Jake got his provisional licence in April 2015, bought his car in June and had the crash in September.
Cindy believes a defensive driving course could address those statistics by simulating driving experiences and teaching young people how to react when something goes awry.
Whether it was aqua-planing or having a kangaroo run out in front of them, every young person needed to be taught how to deal with that situation, she said.
Cindy has started a petition and is pushing for legislation, to be known as Jake's Law, to make 20 hours of defensive driving mandatory in addition to the 100 hours young drivers already have to do.
She would also like tests for L platers to become harder, arguing that drivers should have to get 100% on their tests before getting behind a wheel and prove they know the road rules.
Cindy is also hoping her words will serve as a warning for the drivers who will be travelling long distances over the festive season.
She said instead of focusing on getting there faster, people needed to focus on getting to their destination alive.
"Why are you in a hurry to die?" she said.
"That's what's going to happen when you speed."
Faced with a second Christmas without her son, Cindy said it wasn't just the festive season that was difficult.
"Every time of the year is a difficult time," she said.
"His birthday, my birthday. I don't get to hear him say 'happy birthday you old bag'.'"
Cindy said she knows her son's death will devastate her for the rest of her life.
"These kids don't realise who they are leaving behind.
"My son's death has pulled the whole family apart."
At the spot where Jake died, the family mounted a cross and Cindy visits it often.
She even placed a spotlight at the site so drivers could see the cross at night and be warned.
All this is for her son. Cindy hopes that one day everyone will know his name and that his death made a difference for others.
"He was your typical class clown, right from day one," Cindy said.
He was the only kid to be sent to the naughty corner on his first day of prep.
When planking was a thing, he would take photos in death-defying places and send them to his mum and he would build bike jumps out of her furniture in the backyard.
"Everywhere he went, he made people laugh," Cindy said.
"He was a larrikin."
One of the most moving moments at Jake's funeral came from a friend who told those gathered that Jake had helped her through a dark time in her life.
That meant a lot to Cindy because Jake himself, despite his cheery persona, had struggled with depression when he was a teenager.
"He was a good kid," she said.
Two weeks before he died, Jake got a job in Kilcoy at a meat processing company and Cindy felt he had finally become an adult.
"He had just got his life sorted," she said.
He was on his way to work when the crash happened.
When she sat with her son in his final days, Cindy could not leave his side.
The nurses urged her to get some rest and return to the unit she was staying in, but Cindy said no. She would not sleep even if she did and she wanted to stay with her son.
Then came the worst moment.
The doctors told her it was time to say goodbye to the son she had adored for more than 22 years.
If there was one thing she could explain to young drivers who think they are invincible, it would be to try to convey the pain of that moment.
"Just how devastating it is for a mother to be told she has to turn that machine off."
The doctors asked Cindy what amount of time she would spare for others who wanted to say goodbye.
She left the room for an hour to give others the time they needed.
"All I could think was, I've lost an hour with my son," she said.
Cindy knows she has a lot of work ahead of her, but she's determined to make a difference.
"I'm going to push to make changes to save other people's lives."
To sign the petition, go to www.gopetition.com/petitions/introduce-jakes-law-for-mandatory-defensive-driving-courses-for-learners.html.