Lucky-to-be-alive truckie Chris Scullin still can’t recall anything that happened between 2am on the day his world was turned upside down in a horrific crash, and nine days later when he came out of the coma.
But he is in no doubt about who he owes his life to – the small army of first reponders who worked so tirelessly for more than four hours to free him from the cab of his semi-trailer on the Newell Highway at Bidden.
More than two years later he returned to Gilgandra last week to personally thank them all and let each of them know how grafeful he was that they were all on hand to help save his life after his truck had slammed into an overturned B-double blocking both lanes.
“They get out there and save the lives of complete strangers, and they don’t often know what happens to them in the end. I want to go and say thank you very much for what they have done for me because I am still alive,” Scullin said.
“I was in a coma for nine days, but for more than a month I couldn’t communicate properly.”
In the April 2021 crash, Scullin shattered the left side of his face, broke his nose and his right arm, and is left with a titanium eye socket. He also has a left frontal lobe brain injury and post-traumatic amnesia.
Among the NSW SES road crash rescue operators to attend the scene on the day was Geoff Kiehne, who said the rescue was one of the most complex he’s been a part of.
“It was so complex because of the weights involved and how the two trucks were literally bound together. When you move something, it could impact the patient greatly, so it was very slow, and the maneuvers were very slight and particular,” Kiehne explained.
“This was all happening while paramedics were working on Chris – one up on the roof, and one in the cab watching to make sure there wasn’t anything moving onto Chris when we were moving the trucks.”
Kiehne, who is also a paramedic, was thrilled to be reunited with Scullin, and see the recovery he’s made since the incident.
“I’ve been a paramedic for 40-odd years and this is the first time I have had someone come back to me after a long recovery period to say thank you. It’s pretty unusual,” he said.
Scullin will always feel indebted to those who came to his rescue in more ways than one.
During his recovery, doctors noticed abnormalities in his test results, leading to a cancer diagnosis.
“If Chris hadn’t had the accident, he’d be dead because of the cancer, as he had no symptoms at all. The accident was a blessing in disguise because the doctors picked up the problem and saved his life,” said his wife Jo.