The standard question when it comes to such and adventure is, Why? Well lets just say on the 25th Ocober 2007 I got a bump in the right direction. It wasnt on that day that I just came out and thought “oh im off to Africa” but it was a definfing moment in my life that led me to the later decision to do the trip.
On that day I was driving down the Pacific Highway at Brunswick Heads in northern New South Wales Australia when I pulled over to answer my mobile phone and a 18 wheel semi trailer hit me from behind taking me and everything with it. How I escaped, well no one will ever know lets just say I was either destined to do something more with my life or I could be just one of those always lucky people that gets away with every thing, a bit from column A and a lot from column B.
From the accident I was taken to Tweed Heads intensive care, my injuries included a dozen or so fractured ribs in the right side of my chest, 6 in my back, one lung collapsed the other partially, a hit in the head and a lacerated liver, nearly in half apparently. I bled internally which wasn’t much fun at the time as it was filling my chest up so I couldn’t breath. It wasn’t looking good for me at Tweed Heads so they decided it was in my best interests if I was flown to Princess Alexandria Hospital in Brisbane via the Care Flight helicopter where they had a specialist that may be able to help if I kept bleeding. Its not something I would like to put my at the time 17 year old son Jared through again, a lot of that time is sketchy but ill never forget holding Jared’s hand and saying ” I love you Jaz just grow up to be a good man”, not something I recommend, to see him so upset, it was ordinary to say the least. On a positive note while I was lying there feeling the life drain out of me I had no regrets about my life already and thought to myself “well I’ve had a good run” so if it was to be my time then I was quite cool with it, fortunately for me it wasn’t my time and has left me with a sense of its all a bonus now what ever happens.
This is where all the phsycologist's out there will say I’m mad and I need to take a pill but all my life I’ve had this regular reoccurring dream that I was in a yellow helicopter crash, in my dream I climb out of the side of the helicopter and walk away from it looking back at the wreckage on the ground thinking “WOW that was close” I even asked them at Tweed Heads Hospital when they said they were going to fly me by helicopter if I could go by road as I’ve always had this dream and they simply said you wont make it by road, so I had to go by the helicopter. So they got me all ready I said my goodbyes and they wheeled me out and there was this yellow helicopter exactly like the one I’ve dream't about all my life, as soon as I saw it I knew I was going to be ok as I always survived it in my dreams, weird I know, crazy maybe who really knows, I haven’t had the dream since. I wish I could of seen Jared again at that moment as he had a terrible few hour drive ahead of him not knowing if I was going to be alive when he got to Brisbane but I knew as soon as I saw that helicopter I was going to be ok. I know what you been smoking dude.
A few weeks in intensive care in Princess Alexandria Hospital, an operation on my chest then a week or so in the general ward and I was home and the hard work and recovery process began. Graeme whom has been a mate since school was around and helping from day one, the first day he came around I was lying there on my bed blubbering like an idiot and he said "whats wrong Thommo", well it turned out when they let me out of hospital they had only given me enough painkillers to last 24 hours, I guess I or someone who was going to be around was supposed to go and get more, I thought I'd be sweet but soon realised i could'nt move without them so here I am lyeing on my bed no painkillers, only had major surgery a week earlier and in some quite considerable distress :) I can laugh about it now but at the time it wasn't to funny, the old saying it's funny till someone gets hurt then it's hilarious springs to mind. Graeme immediately went down to the local Doctors and when they rang the hosptial in Brisbane to get the ok to give me more paiknillers, apparently the specialist in Brisbane said "what is he doing out of hospital, get an ambulance and get him to the nearest hospital now", turns out the chest specialists that had operated on me who had given me the ok to leave hadn't been in discussion with the liver specialist and I was supposed to be still in. If you are ever in hospital and have a few teams working on you make sure you get the all clear from all of them before you ring your friend Lisa to come and carry you out of hospital :)
Anyway Graeme comes back and tells me this and I say to him what am I going to be doing in there I'm just going to be doing exactly the same thing as I am here lying on my back, so I just turned the television on and relaxed and let my new found friends the oxycontins kick in. The reason I didn't want to back to hospital was while i was in intensive care for a few weeks I saw quite a few others come through the door and nearly everyone of them that was close to death was through infection, so as I had a 17 cm wound on my chest among other holes they had punched in me with as soon as they said i could leave I was on the phone and out of there and not going back.
The first few months were horrendous, the pain was just unbelievable pretty much just lieing around doing nothing. In about March 2008 I started to get out of bed and head down the soccer oval to just catch up with everyone, soccer has always played a huge part in my life having played it coached all my life. I took on a manager role for the reserve grade squad, I wasn’t really doing anything the boys carried all the gear for me so I was just there but it was great to be around the game I loved, even if I was feeling like absolute crap doing it. I got myself off the morphine based painkillers as quick as I could they were shocking and anyone that has been on them will know exactly what I mean, doesn’t make for clear thinking and feeling good and although I had more pain for being off them my philosophy was “if I’m feeling pain I’m alive”. It’s was hard to stay positive sometimes throughout the recovery but that’s what makes the journey through life so wonderful, it’s just not good all the time and we learn from all our experiences. In those early days I sometimes doubted myself but only briefly as I know nothings impossible if you set your mind to it, sometimes you just have to pick yourself up dust yourself off and set a positive goal and get about achieving it, in saying that I’ve had a lot of wonderful people helping me along the way. If my story can help one person that has been recovering from a bad injury or any kind of setback in life and help in their recovery then that’s great, I can certainly see how easy it is to slip the other way.
People often ask me has it changed my life, well obviously it has but it hasn’t changed my outlook on life, I always loved every minute of it already, I must admit the first time I walked back into the ocean after the accident I was thinking how beautiful is this, the first time I walked onto the soccer field in the pouring down rain I thought this is so much fun, even just walking down the street with my youngest son Logan, just all the little stuff that we can sometimes take for granted were just amplified a hundred times. Its a nice feeling, one I wish I could share with everyone without you having to go through what I did to get that feeling.
So back to the trip and why, I was struggling away with my recovery and thought I need to set a goal to help stay focused and positive, it just came to me with the soccer world cup the following year that I would go to Africa and ride a motorbike from South Africa to Europe either while the world cup was on or after and give back a little along the way, I know, couldn't I have just set a goal to walk to the shop or something easier. Well going to Africa and doing something positive has always been a dream of mine and I had always ridden motorbikes and raced them when I was younger so that made it and easy choice. I didn't set a sunset clause on when I would actually go but until I did leave I raised soccer gear for a group of schools over there using my contacts in the soccer world here in Australia.
Two of my favorite sayings are “your not defeated when you lose your defeated when you quit” and “it may be just a drop in the ocean but with every drop that ocean is closer to being filled” at this time in my life both these saying’s mean a lot to me.
Its funny I’m just reading through what I’ve written again, there has been so much more happen some of it not so good, but it’s all been a great learning curve of just how precious life is and just how quickly it can be taken away so never leave it till tomorrow to tell the ones close to you that you love them. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by some of the greatest friends anyone could have that go back to as far as kindergarten and a family to help me through it all but some people just aren’t as lucky as I have been so to give back even just a little will be nice.
So did I answer the question on why, in the wash up, why? why not, Im just going to grab hold of this second chance of life I’ve been gifted with and enjoy every moment of it as much as I can for however long Im lucky enough to have.
Thats the story so far there ill plenty more to come hopefully and thank you to everyone that has helped so far in every way. Take Care…………Sheldon