Running out of time
Pinned under a massive quad bike, Graeme Fry lay trapped and alone waiting for help
By: Jane Hammond
Fit and healthy with a passion for triathlon and adventure sports, Nick Lonie had everything to live for.
Working in sales, Lonie often worked all over the world and best of all he had just become engaged to the love of his life.
But a split second decision on 21 August 2011 nearly cost him his life.
Lonie’s fiancée, Eve, was in Bali looking at venues for their wedding when his mates asked him to join them on a boys’ weekend at Ledge Point, 120kms north of Perth.
Lonie, 33, jumped at the chance for a weekend away but after spending the day fishing and then drinking at the local pub with his mates he climbed on the rear bumper bar of a ute for a ride to the group’s accommodation less than 500m away.
“I didn’t realise at the time that the driver had been drinking and was two times over the limit,” Lonie says.
Others were standing on the running boards of the four-wheel drive hanging onto a roll bar but Lonie had little to hold onto at the back of the ute and when it sped up to take a corner he and another man were flung off the vehicle.
“I basically hit the tarmac head first at speed,” he says.
Lonie remembers little of the event after that but he was soon in the care of a highly trained St John Ambulance critical care paramedic from an RAC Rescue helicopter.
Together with the other critically injured man, who he had only met that evening, Lonie was airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) and received care that would help save his life. He credits his survival that night to the timely arrival of RAC Rescue.
“The crew on board were very qualified and they spent about an hour and a half on the ground stabilising us before they put us both in the helicopter and took us to hospital.”
Tragically, the other man died that night. For days, Lonie lay in an induced coma in RPH and his family and friends prepared for the worst.
His elderly parents flew from Scotland to be by their son’s bedside, his father packing a funeral suit for the trip and his younger brother raced back from a holiday in South America. Eve, distraught, caught the first plane back from Bali.
A CT scan had revealed a massive bleed on Lonie’s brain, and a week later a large portion of his skull had to be removed. A titanium plate inserted into his skull to replace the section of his head that had been removed.
The injuries suffered by Lonie were more than just physical.
“My character was very different when I woke up. I was very inappropriate, very impulsive and aggressive. It took about two or three years to make that progression back to normal.”
The road to recovery has been long and hard, but Lonie has stayed on track. Although he has lost his sense of smell, he is 99 per cent back to normal.
“I did a half iron-man competition about 18 months after the accident and it helped me to stay positive.”
While delayed, Lonie and and Eve finally got married and have a daughter. Lonie is also using his experience to try and educate others and increase the community's understanding of acquired brain injuries.
"I don't want kids to think they can act stupid and maybe end up with a traumatic head injury and then everything's fine, like it is with me," he told media as part of Brain Injury Awareness Week in 2016.
"I was just lucky. The more common outcomes are far, far worse."
Funded by the State Government, the RAC Rescue helicopters are managed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) and sponsored by RAC.
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