‘No-brainer’: Footy star’s choice after losing foot
Rogan Dean sat up in the middle of a busy Brisbane road, arms scratched and bloodied after slamming into the bitumen.
Behind him was the Harley Davidson he had been riding, motor still running as it lay crumpled in front of the car that had just hit him.
His first thoughts were that of relief, feeling incredibly lucky to have survived the crash with nothing but "gravel-rash".
Or so he thought.
Standing up to retrieve the motorcycle, Dean stumbled slightly on his left leg and looked down.
Instead of a foot bearing his body weight, his exposed left shin bone was touching the concrete.
It took a moment for the gruesome reality confronting him to sink in. Everything below his ankle had been ripped clean off.
"From there, I just sat back down and didn't know what to do," Dean said.
"That's when the pain set in."
THE SUNDAY RIDE
Life for Rogan Dean had been pretty good on the morning of Sunday, August 16.
The Mackay product and former North Queensland Cowboys junior should have been playing for the Ipswich Jets in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup this year, had it not been for COVID-19 pandemic.
The talented rugby league player - nicknamed "Guns" for his bulging biceps - is a cult hero among Queensland's footy community and has 33 tries in his 70 appearances in the Intrust Super Cup.
Just a week earlier, he began renovations on his Queenslander home in Kedron - a project he had been saving money for and had forced him to move in with a friend in Paddington.
That morning, Dean decided to go for a casual Sunday ride with a mate up to Redcliffe, borrowing another friend's Harley Davidson.
"We went from Paddington out to Sandgate first and then out to Redcliffe," he said.
"At about midday, we started heading back to my place.
"I was riding along Sandgate Rd near Nundah, on the inside lane heading towards the city and the outside lane was all backed up full of traffic.
"I was only going about 60km/h, just idling along coming up to an intersection when a bloke in a car came out of a side street to cut across both lanes and head north.
"Out of nowhere, I saw this car come flying out and it was too late to try and get out of the way."
THE MOMENT HIS LIFE CHANGED
The impact of the crash sent Dean flying over the handlebars, cartwheeling across the car's bonnet and onto the bitumen of Sandgate Road.
"I remember thinking I've got out of that pretty lucky. It all happened so fast," he said.
"I went to stand up and I put my left leg down.
"I felt what was my shin bone hit the bitumen and that's when I looked down and saw my foot had been crushed and torn off.
"Initially I didn't feel it but when I saw it and stood on it, it didn't feel right.
"In one instance I was lucky because there was a paramedic in the car behind me, on her way to work.
"She parked the car and grabbed me to lie me down."
An ambulance rushed Dean straight to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital - his severed left foot strapped onto the wound in the hope it would be saved.
But the odds were against him.
"I'd already seen the state it was in so I knew my foot was gone," he said.
"It was pretty hard to take.
"A part of you kind of hopes you wake up and hope by some miracle they've reattached it."
A SECOND OPERATION
After his emergency surgery, Dean was given two options.
One. He could leave his amputation at the ankle and be fitted with a "slip-on foot" which would hide any sign of amputation.
The cost though, would mean no more running. No more gym. No cycling. Nothing.
Option two. He could go back into surgery and amputate his leg higher, midway down his shin, which would open him up to a world of prosthetics that would allow him to do everything he could before the accident.
"For me it was a no-brainer," Dean said.
"I could either look normal or do normal things.
"I just said to the surgeons 'go in and cut it higher' because I'd rather be able to live a near-normal life rather than just look normal.
"It's a better quality of life."
THE DARK NIGHTS AND MARATHON DREAMS
For someone who has had his world turned upside down, Dean remains incredibly positive.
But it wasn't without several dark days lying in his hospital bed.
As a COVID-19 scare sent the hospital into lockdown, forcing Dean's family and friends to leave his bedside, he was left with nothing but his own thoughts.
"It was when I saw myself in the mirror for the first time since the accident when it all hit home," he said.
"After dwelling on it for a bit, I told myself I could sit around and mope about it all but it's not going to change anything.
"The accident was out of my control. What I can control is how I bounce back from it."
And Dean is planning to bounce back in a big way.
Having run the New York Marathon back in 2017, Dean is planning to do it again - but this time with a prosthetic leg.
Representing Australia at the Paralympics in track and field is another goal of his because he wants to prove to himself - and others - that this injury won't be the end of him.
"I'm in the mindset now where I want to do everything I've done before to prove that my injury hasn't changed what I'm capable of doing," he said.
"There's a lot of other things as well I want to do to also prove to other people that this injury isn't the end of me."
Originally published as 'No-brainer': Footy star's choice after losing foot