John Waters is becoming used to getting around on his new bionic leg after surviving a major motorcycle accident with a large vehicle.
John Waters is becoming used to getting around on his new bionic leg after surviving a major motorcycle accident with a large vehicle. Renee Pilcher

Crash survival is a 'miracle'

JOHN Waters knows how lucky he is to be alive.

The 69-year-old's leg was virtually severed when his run-about motorbike and a four-wheel-drive collided on the corner of Brisbane and Noosa Rds on September 12 last year.

Firefighters and ambulance paramedics worked frantically to save his life and despite losing most of his blood and "dying" three times on the side of the road, Mr Waters lives to tell the story to his grandchildren.

The series of events that followed all contributed to his survival - a miracle by medical standards. Swift and precise response from firefighters Col Castree, who administered the tourniquet, Grant Nelson who began CPR and Wayne Westlake who performed C-spine control initially saved his life, officer in charge of Gympie ambulance Wayne Sachs said.

Ambulance paramedics Andrew Judd, Dean Ellaby and Andrew Podrana arrived at the scene soon after and were joined by off-duty paramedic Brian Lehane, who was passing by.

Both teams worked on Mr Waters on the side of the road for about 40 minutes, during which time an anaesthetist, on his way to work at Nambour Hospital, stopped to offer assistance and helped insert an oxygen tube down his throat.

Mr Sachs said Gympie Hospital's emergency medical team that met his paramedics at the hospital were brilliant.

"The resuscitation in hospital was extremely well done. I honestly think it was due to Dr Wright, who led that team. I've never seen anything so well co-ordinated and I've seen a lot of 'resus' attempts in my time.

"The medical team were squeezing in as much O-blood as they could because they didn't have enough time to work out what blood type he was."

Mr Waters lost four litres of blood on the side of the road. A massive amount of blood loss considering humans have just six litres.

"It was such a battle. He's a fighter," firefighter Grant Nelson said.

"John is a very strong man. He went into cardiac arrest three times on the bitumen ... we never gave up on him. No one has heard of anyone surviving that at all ... he lost four litres of blood. A nurse told me it went against everything she learned at medical school."

The odds of anyone surviving cardiac arrest with that amount of trauma and not sustaining any brain damage was 0.25 of 1%.

Mr Waters went into cardiac arrest several times in Gympie Hospital. However, just a couple of days later he was sitting up in his bed in intensive care, laughing with the nurses.

He can't remember the collision or feeling much pain during the incident.

"I'm still here, that's the main thing. I consider myself lucky compared to some of the young amputees in hospital with the rest of their life ahead of them.

"The main thing I will miss is riding horses. I've had horses since I could walk, and trained and shoed horses at different stages. I'm looking forward to mowing the lawn again. I'm going to get a ride-on mower even though it's a small yard."

Mr Waters is now using a borrowed, computer-adjusted bionic leg while awaiting his state-of-the-art leg to arrive from Germany. All medical expenses and home modifications have been paid by Workcover.


The morning of September 12, 2011

6.29: Emergency services receive Code 1 000 called about a major traffic crash and extensive injuries.

6.31: Firefighters arrive on scene and applied a tournique to stop the bleeding, C-spine contro, oxygen and CPR.

6.35: Ambulance paramedics arrive on scene to find John in a state of severe shock.

6.39: John still has a slight pulse with dropping blood pressure.

6.40: He goes into traumatic cardiac arrest. CPR is performed for next 40 minutes on the side of the road. An off-duty anaesthetist stops to help intensive care paramedic place a oxygen tube in John's throat. An intra-osseus infusion is inserted into the bone marrow of John's shoulder to replace fluid loss.

7.20: CPR continues while John is loaded into the ambulance and taken to hospital.

7.30: John receives a blood transfusion for the four litres of blood he lost. Resuscitation continues for about an hour-a-half. He is stabilised and packaged by the aero-medical team to be transferred to Royal Brisbane Hospital.

9.30: John is airlifted to Brisbane where he is immediately taken into theatre to have leg amputated and is returned to the intensive care unit for recovery.

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