It’s been over seven months since a motorcycle accident left Sludge with horrific injuries and though he’s continuing to improve each week, Sludge says there’s still a little while to go.
“My body is good and going really well, but my head is now the issue. I got over the hurdle of the hurt body and needing painkillers and that sort of thing, but my vertigo is next level. I do struggle with it,” Sludge told Big Rigs.
“The vertigo buggers up my balance. With the brain injury, all the bleeds were on the right side of the brain, so it affects your balance on the left side. So when I get tired, the left side of my body doesn’t work properly and that’s when I start falling down.”
Paul ‘Sludge’ Andrews became a household name in the world of trucking thanks to his regular appearances on hit television show Outback Truckers – together with his instantly recognisable purple 2008 Peterbilt 379 called ‘The Phantom’.
Still unable to get back behind the wheel, Sludge says he’s been using his push bike to keep active.
Earlier this month, he headed out to the Kulin Bush Races, which was his first public outing since the accident on March 4. “I could get around by riding my push bike which was really good. But the other side of that is that it’s been two to three weeks afterwards where I haven’t done a lot. It took me out for a bit,” he said.
“At Kulin, there were a lot of people and too much light for me. I’ve become very light sensitive. When there are bright lights I have to wear sunglasses. I went to my son’s graduation the other day and I had to wear sunglasses and ear plugs. It is what it is though, I can’t do anything about it, I need to learn when to go out and when not to.”
Though he’s hopeful of eventually returning to trucking in some capacity, it’s likely to still be a while away. “As much as I think I could go back to work tomorrow, there’s the repercussions every time I go and do something, so I know I’m dreaming,” Sludge added.
“I would be surprised if I could go back to work within the next 12 months. It’s hard to accept because my body is good – but then my head isn’t and I just don’t have the stamina. I can only last two or three hours.
“When we were at Kulin, I’d go to the caravan to sit down for 20-30 minutes, then I could go back over to where our friends were. So I am bouncing back better than I was.”
Sludge says his neurologist believes the vertigo could take anywhere from one to three years to clear up. “That’s what has pulled me back to a little bit of reality because where I think I am and where I truly am are two different things.”
Sludge has had his beloved Phantom since 2009 and has racked up 2.97 million kilometres on it since then. “I want to get it to 3 million, so I don’t want to give it up just yet,” he said.
He says he has no plans to sell the truck and has it away in the shed. “I have a couple of mates who help me out and drive it when needed too. One of my mates said the other day he’d be surprised if they ever give me my licence back. But I’m not going to give up that easy. I still love trucking. Maybe I need to look at a different avenue of trucking like driver training or something like that. It’ll never be back to the way it was.
“I’m slowly starting to restore my truck as well. I need to sandblast the chassis and get a new bumper put on. I want to put it back to the way it was as more of a show truck. There are a couple of spots on the bonnet that we’ll touch up too.”
But despite the many hurdles he’s had to overcome, Sludge is hopeful of eventually getting back behind the wheel.
“I’d still like to work a little bit but predominantly want to keep the Phantom as more of a show truck. it’s done its honest day’s work. If I was going to go back on the road, I would probably get a smaller truck for around town and probably use the Peterbilt when I need to do the heavier work,” Sludge explained.
“As much as I want to go back to work, my head won’t let me. A lot of people see it but then a lot of them don’t. I’m not feeling as good as how as I look.
“Everything is good except that vertigo, but it’s crippling. I’m learning to live with it, but it eats me up when I can’t do things.”
With talks of a possible new season of Outback Truckers circulating, Sludge is hoping to get involved again, if season 10 comes to fruition.
It’s been two years since season nine aired and the team behind the show at Prospero Productions have been working hard behind the scenes to get the show back on our screens.
Sludge was on the show from seasons three through to nine. “I’d like to think after Christmas we might be able to do some filming in the truck. I won’t be able to drive it but I’m hoping I can sit in the passenger seat and have someone else driving – I don’t want to miss out!”
Prospero Productions also filmed Sludge’s wedding to his long-time partner Wendy last month. “They did the wedding video for us, which was just awesome. That touches our hearts as they didn’t have to do that,” he added.