Sludge hopeful about getting back behind the wheel

Following a horrific motorcycle accident on March 4, that left him with serious injuries, Paul ‘Sludge’ Andrews recently returned home to continue his long recovery.

The popular truckie became well known after his regular appearances on Outback Truckers, alongside his beloved 2008 Peterbilt 379 called ‘The Phantom’.

Sludge has spent a lifetime behind the wheel and has travelled to all corners of the country. But now it could be a long time before he’s able to get back on the road again.

The accident happened just around the corner from his home. He had headed out on the motorbike, with his 16-year-old son following behind him on a scooter, when the unthinkable happened.

Sludge suffered a fractured skull, eye sockets, cheeks and ribs, a bleed to the brain, and torn ligaments in his neck, along with back and hip pain. It left him unconscious for several minutes, and he is unable to remember the accident.

Sludge was rushed to Royal Perth Hospital’s trauma unit, where he stayed for two weeks, before being transferred to the Fiona Stanley Hospital, where he was for close to five weeks.

“They also did surgery on his brain to block an artery, to stop any more bleeding on the brain,” said his fiancé Wendy Kennedy.

Sludge was discharged in late April so he could continue his rehabilitation from home, with Wendy being his full-time carer.

His rehab will include physiotherapy, speech therapy and continuous doctor and specialist appointments, along with hydro pool therapy several times a week. The recovery is expected to take 6-12 months, but it could be even longer before he’s able to drive a truck again.

Though Sludge is now back on his feet and able to walk short distances, Wendy told Big Rigs there’s still a long way to go.

“Sludge is walking now, but very slowly. He couldn’t go to the shops for example without being in a wheelchair. He can walk lit- tle distances but then he gets fatigued. It’s good for him to walk though, where he can. So I let him walk and then get the wheelchair out when he gets tired. It can be emotionally trying too though.”

Sludge also opened up about how difficult it’s been. “I’m actually a little over it. It’s not coming along like I thought it would. I’m alright with walking, but still a bit unsteady,” he said.

In fact, just three days after coming home, Sludge had a fall – thankfully he didn’t hurt himself too badly. Wendy explained, “He keeps losing his balance. He’ll be walking and then his leg will give way. He had a nasty fall outside our house. He grazed his head on the pole and hurt the wrist that wasn’t injured, on the concrete. It could have been a lot worse.”

Sludge added, “A fall like that puts me back two or three days, and that annoys me. We’ll get there, it’s just going to take time.”

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been an easy ride for this couple in recent times. Sludge’s motorbike accident came just a week after he had returned to work, following a jet ski accident at the end of December 2022. He had suffered seven broken ribs as a result and was sidelined from work for six weeks.

“No one can give an answer about when Sludge will be able to drive again. With a head injury, this is really fresh, it’s still early days,” said Wendy.

When asked about getting back behind the wheel, Sludge said he was hopeful.

“It’s probably 12-18 months away – it could even be two years before I’m driving again. I need to be able to pass my main medical too, so I might not be able to road train again, I may only be able to do singles. But you never know. I had a mate who had a stroke and he was set way back, and he’s going again.”

He continued, “From the head injury, I get car sick a the moment. Every time I get in the car, I have to take medication. I can handle not being able to drive, but this is the one thing I’m really struggling with. I struggle to even go in the car to get to appointments.”

Wendy added, “The doctors can’t say how long it will take but he won’t be driving a truck for a very long time. What people don’t understand is that we’re not loaded – we’re just an average working couple.

“He nearly lost everything seven years ago and had to rebuild. Everything he does is because he’s passionate about trucks and loves doing it. Now we’re looking long term, because we don’t want to go broke again.”

A friend of the couple, Donna Gell, has created a GoFundMe page to help with the associated costs while Sludge’s business is on hold. At the time of writing (May 11), $15,780 had been raised of the $25,000 goal.

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