Over the the following hours, days and weeks, each of you remember where you were, what you were doing and how this news reached you.
I want to apologise for any distress and disruption that the news I caused, to you and your family.
I'm just very thankful and grateful to everyone who God has used and worked thru (even if you have not realised it) to
preserve my life and recovery to date, giving me a second chance, after that serious jet fuel explosion accident that went off around me in a developing country.
It was around 14hrs, actually 1am the next day when I arrived here at RBWH burns unit.
Up till then I was conscious and not intubated.
Last thing I remember at the end of the 14hrs was arriving happy enough at Brisbane International from the Medivac Jet and going into the Ambulance.
That was all I remember until I woke up out of the induced coma in nearly March 2013.
After waking up all busted up, grafted, debrided etc, I was angry thinking, what have these doctors done! I was ok before they messed with me here in BNE (so I thought)
Then after that I thought, they knew how bad I am and what I have in front of me and the pain, why did they save me!?
This is inhuman and cruel!
Then I became aware about the insurance situation.
All I wanted/wondered then was why did everyone save me then?
How long till euthanasia laws are passed in Australia or QLD?
Because I was so useless, I couldn't even end my life, even if everyone stood back and let me.
All I could have done was give verbal consent, I couldn't even give a fingerprint or sign an X.
Truely a unique and interesting position to have been in.
But since those terrible early days much has changed thanks to a Good God who cares about me and Bri, loving family, friends, medical professionals and every other good person that I share this world with :-)
Today I am thankful for every every cent, second and ounce of effort that you all have contributed to what I believe is a successful recovery to date.
I reckon we are about 2/3rds as we enter this 3rd year.
I am expecting at least 6 ops this year, 4 big ones with much intensive rehab again.
The future is uncertain and my ultimate level of recovery is unknown.
So the things I can do something about I DO.
And the things I can't, I'm glad I can leave to a God who cares and knows our future.
While I continue to partner with Him, I believe that He will see me and Bri thru the journey we all experience and call 'life.'
Thankyou for your love, kindness, support and interest in my journey.
I am very humbled by your interest and encouragement.
As I have shared today, whatever inspiration you may experience, I am not responsible or source of.
My solution was to end my life after all the effort of everyone else to save me!
The source of inspiration, positive attitude and desire for life I have a measure of, is I believe, from the source and creator of life.
Well we find ourselves well into 2014, with the first Quarter now behind us.
Thank-you for all of the positive comments, prayers and support, from each one of you. I do notice and read them all, but unfortunately I just struggle to find time to respond to each of you individually.
March has been a busy month for Bri and me. It began with a trip to Cooranbong in NSW, where Adventist Aviation's 50yr Anniversary Celebrations were held on March 1-2. It was a full weekend with the program starting on Friday night, all day Saturday and a day out at Cessnock Airport with Achieve Aviation on Sunday.
We had a good time down there all together with the pioneer pilots who started it all in 1964, along with a large gathering of former and present pilots, engineers etc. A very unique time in history as we are able to celebrate the previous 50yrs of God's leading with those that began it all, who are still with us, and as Adventist Aviation continues into the future, in this part of the world (Aust, NZ, PNG, etc) not only in PNG, but throughout the states/territories of Australia and NZ.
I was given the opportunity to share briefly in the Saturday program, with some pictures and to speak about my journey of recovery since my accident in January 2013, after departing Adventist Aviation Services as their Maintenance Manager in Goroka PNG for the previous 9 yrs.
Two books were released on the weekend. One was the 50 year Adventist Aviation PNG picture history book, that Bri has been a part of producing.
Many were sold on the weekend and bought as memorabilia/collectors pieces. They are selling for AUD$48.00 plus postage, with only 300 left last I heard. Available from Adventist Book Centre in Cooranbong NSW or
Distributed directly from Colin Dunn "“ email email@example.com
All proceeds will go to paying for the production of the book and profits will be directed to Adventist Aviation Services continued work and expansion in PNG.
A copy of this book has actually been received by HRH Prince William from his recent visit of NZ and Australia, and will be placed in the Royal Library back in England! If it's good enough for the Royal Library, it should be good enough for most of our libraries â˜º
The second book was "Winchee" "“ Mission Stories of Colin and Melva Winch". Pr Colin Winch and his wife Melva were missionaries and co-founding pilot of Adventist Aviation Services in PNG when it began in 1964. I believe this book is under $20.00. Available from Signs Publishing/Adventist Book Centre.
Later in July, a celebration will be held in Goroka PNG, for Adventist Aviation Services 50yr Papua New Guinea celebrations. I don't reckon Bri or I will make it to that one unfortunately.
I mentioned in February's newsletter that if the opportunity presented, I would give flying a go, which is my next goal to reach and achieve since my accident. On the Sunday of the weekend March 2nd, a program was hosted at
Achieve Aviation, founded and owned by Mr & Mrs Garry Fraser. Garry was the ATO/Chief Flying Instructor/Director of the highly reputable and successful Avondale Flying College when it existed, before being sold to Wollongong University and then being sold by Wollongong to Garry himself. I am very pleased that the heritage and quality of flight training that was offered by Avondale Flying College for 30yrs to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Commercial aviation community continues on with the Fraser's as they operate Achieve Aviation at Cessnock Airport in the Hunter Region of NSW.
As I walked into Achieve Aviation's facility and hanger I suddenly realized that this was the first time that I had walked into an aircraft hanger since I had run out of one on fire, back in January 22nd 2013, in Goroka PNG. I had been to a few airports, but not into a hanger. Surprisingly I was at ease, but couldn't help remember my last experience.
Towards the end of the day, Garry asked if I wanted to try going for a fly.
I gratefully accepted this appropriate opportunity to try flying again for the first time in nearly 2 yrs, with Garry's offer of his time as instructor and the use of a later model Cessna C182S VH-XTX owned by Cannot Be Hidden "“ Thank you Craig! I reminded myself that 2003 was the last time I had flown a C182S, on a test flight, at my previous job with a Cessna Dealer in WA, after assembling one after it had arrived from the USA factory in a shipping container. Dad also came along, observing from the rear seat.
The trickiest bit was getting in and out with my stiff knees and getting a headset on my head, with my stuck elbows! Once all strapped in, all was quite familiar and off we went. Hope Channel film crew captured the event and interviewed us. I said to Garry that I would like to do a few circuits or Touch & Go's, as those exercises involve the repetition of the "exciting" and more technical bits of piloting generally, the Take-off and Approach/Landing.
All went well, I did a couple of circuits on my own without frightening anyone or the need for Garry to feel he had to take over the controls. He was happy.
(Garry did handle the radio communication for me though, so I could focus on the flying) It did feel good to have the opportunity to try actually flying again.
Generally until I TRY a new skill again (in my recovery) I am never really sure what my ability really is. So I am VERY grateful to Garry at Achieve Aviation and CNBH for making this opportunity a reality for me!
You may have noticed a picture on my FB page posted by Warren Scale.
This was a flight I did with Leighton Judd an RA (Recreational Aviation) Instructor in a Tecnam P2002. After I landed the C182S and arrived back from my first flight with Garry, Leighton asked me if I wanted to try flying in an Ultra-light aircraft, the 100hp Rotax 912 powered Tecnam that he had there at the Cessnock airport. I told Leighton that I had never been in or flown in anything that small, but figured why not, I had seen the aircraft flying already that day and Leighton being an experienced instructor, I reasoned that this was another good opportunity.
Again the entry and exit from the aircraft and the donning of a headset were awkward, but once that was all settled, Leighton ran me through the controls, check-lists, and run-up before we headed off. As I hadn't flown a P2002 before we agreed that a local flight would be the go to get familiar with it rather than going into circuits straight up. So with Leighton taking care of the radio communication, he let me take off, fly around, then do the approach and landing! On take-off it felt very light and squirmish to me, but once airborne with being gentle and light on the controls, was quite smooth and stable.
I wondered how I would handle a stable approach and landing, with it being so light, but I set up the speed that Leighton recommended and we came in nicely! So that was another unexpected opportunity to try something new and experience some more aviation which I continue to be passionate about, despite my accident. Thank-you Leighton!
Since meeting another aircraft owner from QLD who was down in NSW for the weekend, I have since been up flying along with him in his twin engine aircraft in Brisbane this month as well. At least I know I still "have it" and the basic ability and experience are still there.
Following the weekend in Cooranbong/Cessnock, on Monday I went down to Sydney for an interview with Kent Kingston at Record's studio for their "InFocus" program. To my knowledge, I have not yet seen it aired.
Next day on Tuesday, it was back up at Cooranbong, 3ABN had scheduled an interview with Mum, Dad and myself, for an hour program, but it went very, very fast! Bri struggles with the publicity part, following my accident. She supports me in whatever opportunities are presented to me, that I choose to accept, but she doesn't like being part of the publicity, if that makes sense, which I understand. Basically, Bri is always there with me, but in the audience or behind the camera/s.
Even for myself, I don't do anything publicly for my own reasons or attention. The invitation needs to met at least 2 of the following 3 criteria:
1- The invitation can show and exhibit God's care, faithfulness and goodness of His character through my recovery experience
2 - That through my experience it may help and inspire others to move forward positively through their own difficulties
3 - It allows me the opportunity to acknowledge, thank, and give credit to everyone who has supported Bri and me through this difficult time.
After spending some time with my Aunty and Cousins in Sydney, following all of these appointments, Bri and I met up with my Mum and Dad to drive us back up to Brisbane via Tamworth where my Mum's parents and siblings live.
The four of us managed to all fit into a little 3 door Hyundai Excel
(Accent, in the USA) which Dad bought as a cheap car to get around in, rather than hiring a car for a month or so. Bri had not yet met my grandparents and some siblings of my Mum, so it was great to spend a few days with them together as a family.
On the weekend at Tamworth SDA Church I was given the opportunity to share pictures and my story of recovery. Many people at Tamworth are good friends and have known me since I was a baby and of course knew Mum even when she was growing up, so they were interested to hear my story, after hearing of my accident.
In Tamworth I went walking up the mountain/hill bush-track up behind the lookout, so another first walking up the uneven rocky track. Going up was fine, but coming down was awkward with my knees not bending very well. But we made it without falling, so that is the main thing☺
The first half of March was living out of a suitcase and on the road a bit.
As nice as it is to go away and spend time with family that we don't often see, my routine suffers. So it was really nice to get back to our little home in Brisbane and get back into our solid routine again. I just find it hard to keep up in routine efficiently when we are away, as compared with at home, so that is why we don't get out much, or stay up late in the evenings. Things are getting easier though, so in time we may be in a better position to visit.
Next day after arriving back from our trip, I was back into physio and gym at the hospital. Due to my progress and the next cycle of patients, who are earlier on in their recovery journey moving to Outpatients, my physio told me that this would be my last week for regular visits at the hospital for physio and gym! I guess it is good progress, but felt strange to be cut loose, as that has been my full-time job up until now! But I can do it all at home and at the local gym, which I have had to join up to, so I still have much to keep up with.
Last week we had a visit from Tompaul, a film maker/Director from the USA who had been in Goroka with AAS shooting footage with them. He spent an evening in Brisbane with us, shooting some follow-up footage of me/Bri and interviewing Dad. He was last here in November 2013, so he noticed my progress and wanted some more footage to capture my story for a film/documentary, which he is working on, capturing Adventist Aviation Services work in PNG, which my story is part of. He has been up to Goroka a few times with us when I worked up there, so it was interesting seeing footage of interviews that he had taken with me before my accident and now following.
The rest of March has been taken up with Occupational Therapy (OT) appointments at the hospital, for new Second Skin compression garments
(my third and maybe my last???) which are custom made every 6 months.
It takes a bit to measure, trial, adjust and get right, as these ones I wear are made in Perth WA (opposite side of Australia)
I no longer wear a vest, so am down to the facemask, pants, gloves and arm-sleeves now! Not having to wear my vest has been a new lease on freedom and comfort that I haven't had for a LONG time, as I wear these garments 23hrs a day. The weather is getting cooler and hence more comfortable now for me too!
This time last year, I began going through the worst 2 months of my life.
I don't mention this for sympathy or any other reason, but just to share and document where I was at 12 months ago.
I was in the Acute Burns ward, after being transferred from my 4 week induced in ICU. This is when a patient is fully awake and being pushed from being on tubes EVERYWHERE, to transitioning back onto feeding through the mouth again, learning to use a toilet again, sleep in a "normal" bed - (my bed was actually a fancy maternity bed of which cost around $20,000 from memory I was told, it had buttons that did all kinds of stuff.) Being conscious for baths and dressing changes and of course the dreaded PHYSIO!
I was given pain medication, but it didn't help. Everyday I used to beg the doctors on their round each morning for better pain relief, that the HO in my joints were causing, JUST during physio, the rest I was handling. They reckoned they were giving me what was safe and all that they could.
We tried a few different pain relief products, but a waste of time.
I couldn't believe that in 2013, we still we didn't understand the body enough to develop a short, strong, hard hitting pain relief, that could enter and leave the body quickly (like for a physio session). This highlights to me how little we still know, after Zillions of years, yet we are so confident that our complex bodies all just evolved without ANY intelligence, design or purpose.
I hope I never have to face that pain again in my life!
My physio suspected that I may have the dreaded HO, because of my extreme pain. She ordered X-rays and unfortunately, I did indeed have the (Heterotopic Ossification) HO in both elbows AND both knees "“ a complication/trauma response of the body. Again I couldn't believe that in 2013 so little is known about HO! Why it forms, how to stop it, what the best way to treat it is etc. This had been the worst part of the whole injury and has slowed my recovery by at least a year
Anyway, in respect to controlling the pain - My only hope, best friend and marginal relief was from the Antinox Gas or "laughing gas" (I don't remember it making me laugh!) Nitrous Oxide basically I believe. I would suck a 20cu/ft bottle dry by the time (sometimes before) the approximate 1-1.5 Hr physio session was over. One side effect (among many others "“ the physio would have to log the time I was on it each session, because of the serious affect it can have with long-time use) if one sucks the Antinox too hard, is nausea, and I got it twice, the worst when I threw up my nasal gastric feed tube, then had to get another put in while I was conscious.
My physio was relentless and consistent, pushing me in two sessions a day, 7 days a week. It paid off, and I will EVER be grateful to her for pushing me (and sticking with me when I would push her) to the limit. My arms were stuck straight and in the end before the HO set hard, we got them to a bit over 90 degrees, which is the best place to have them stuck! Otherwise, with straight arms, a patient basically cannot do anything for themselves.
I started off not being able to even roll in bed or sit up. By the end of March I could walk in a walker/push a wheel-chair. My balance was all out of whack and I needed help to stand-up. I couldn't even stand up long enough to have a shower, even holding onto rails in the shower! But I am so THANKFUL that I NEVER have fallen since then to now. It was simply not an option for me, so was a real balancing act, pushing forward trying new things, but always acutely aware of the risk of falling.
I remember the day I was challenged to walk from my room to the bathing room, maybe 50metres / less than 200ft. It felt like a 5 mile run! The bathing room was basically a special room with a big stainless steel tank with a hiab crane that would lift me up from the trolley and dunk me in the tank, lying down in a cage "“ like fish and chips being fried in oil. There I would have my head shaved; get dressings pulled off, stitches pulled out, debridement, and washed up. I looked like a lump of meat being cooked in a big pot! I couldn't bear to look at my red lobster body, arms, legs; they looked like a leg of ham "“ something that you see in the butcher or meat section of your supermarket.
The nurses would say "you're looking REALLY well and skin/grafts are healing so well!" I used to think "I must have been a sight back in ICU, if this looks good to you"
I would avoid known locations of mirrors. Occasionally I would catch a glance and be horrified at the image in the mirror, thinking, "Whoa! Who is that? Oh, that's "me""¦"¦." The whole experience was very stressful. I had gone from being a fit, healthy, strong 33 year old, to a weak, dependent, sick and useless 2 year old. I had to depend on my Mum/Dad, Mother-In Law, Sister, Bri (they would all take turns everyday in shifts 6am-9pm) and nursing staff to do EVERYTHING for me.
If I was cold at night, I couldn't even pull the blanket up on me above my chest, much less get up to turn a dripping tap off properly that a nurse had left on, sending me insane. My temperature control was all out of whack.
(Common issue with big burns, it comes good, but takes a few months.)
I could be sweating but freezing, and go from Hot/Cold and back to Hot again very quickly for no reason.
I would be lucky to sleep for a few hours each night, and would begin a new day already exhausted. (In the last year I must have lost 1000's of hours of sleep. I feel like I am still catching up.) When I was unable to move my legs (i.e. walk around) I would be given several heparin injections each day. I only had a couple of areas of ok skin, and we would cycle between those 3 areas, because they would end up so bruised from so many needles. I felt like a pin cushion.
I didn't feel like eating, but I had too! Otherwise I would get the nasal gastric tube put back in through my nose. So that was the biggest motivator to eat.
But I would feel nauseas every time I even heard the meal trolley coming.
One time the OT's organised a cooking exercise and after 5 minutes I was ready to throw up. Food made me sick. I had lost 15kg (I never had much to spare before!) and even though I was being fed in ICU on the tube double what is recommended, I still lost that amount of weight! The metabolism goes crazy fast with a big burn. The body just burns up protein from anywhere it can find it "“ hence I had no muscles and was a skeleton.
I had never taken so many drugs/tablets in my life! (Up to this point I had never really taken any medication and a year later I am so thankful that I am in that position again.)
I would wake in the morning around 5.00 am everyday and hope that I could move my legs and arms again, then realize/remember, nope, they're stuck. I'm a useless blob. Why did everyone bother saving me? I wasn't told about a recovery like this before I was sent to hospital, with all of these complications!
I was baffled as to why everyone had worked so had to save my life, if this was now my life! I was at peace and would have been happy to have never woken up after being put to sleep in the ambulance at Brisbane airport "“ my last memory on 22 Jan 2013.
I remember hoping that Australia was close to passing euthanasia laws any day, so I could get someone to fill out a form for me (I couldn't even do that) and then scribble my name, for consent so I could have an injection."It was my only hope, after all" I reasoned. "I can't even kill myself if I could figure out how." At that stage my hands didn't work. I couldn't get out of bed; much less find stairs or a window to fall from. There were blades and scissors all over my room, but even if I could have gotten to them, I couldn't use themâ˜º
Such was my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual state.
I have felt deeply the meaning of, Jesus' words in the Gospel of Matthew 27:46, "At aboutÂ three o'clockÂ Jesus shouted with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is,"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
I remember thinking over and over and crying out those very words.
This was the turmoil of what was going on inside of me. I was solemn and very sad, and it was torture to be left alone in my room during the day and not be busy with some activity, to keep my mind off my situation. I felt like a caged lion or some wild/free animal that was now terrified, trapped and locked up in a useless body, in an institution.
Then trying to go to sleep each night, there would be the endless loop of what I remember of my accident and the nightmares from that.
I would have to force my eyes open and keep them open for as long as I could, to stop the terror. Fortunately I never got hooked on sleeping tablets,
(I was sacred and very aware of the danger of getting hooked on any of the drugs), but there were maybe 2 nights that I had to request them. The staff didn't like to give them out, but my mind was racing and going crazy. I couldn't sleep. I needed something to knock me out on those two occasions.
If you were to ask my family, nursing staff, doctors, my physio, even the hospital psych or any visitors that saw me, they would tell you that I was a patient, compliant, faithful, courteous, respectful and very appreciative, hard-working model patient, which I was on the outside.
This is a small snap-shot of what I can still briefly recall of my "life" and experience March 2013. My family could recall other details I am sure! (my Mum kept a daily diary.) I give all of you and God the credit for being able to push through that horrific time of my life.
One year on from this time, I can honestly say that I am genuinely happy to still be here! I am ever grateful to my God for having been given a second chance at life, when really, I should have died many times since 22 Jan 2013.
Not everyone pulls through such an event.
NOW I understand, why the doctors, nurses, therapists, my family and so many others worked so hard to save me, believed in me, pushed me very hard and supported me so lovingly during this time. No matter how much people would tell me in March 2013 that I would be ok again one day, I couldn't see it becoming a reality for me, from where I was then.
The only "why question" I have, especially from the news we received last week on 9 April 2014 (about the death of a fellow missionary pilot), is "why was I chosen to be saved and allowed to pull through when others haven't been saved from accidents?" It is a strange feeling, a feeling with a sense of guilt attached to it. This feeling doesn't get me down, but more am left to ponder it. As a result I feel a sense of privileged responsibility (I mean this humbly) to live the remainder of my life respectfully, purposefully, and very appreciative of all experiences and everyone around me.
I will always owe my life and current quality of life to my God, the medical team, you, and every person who has contributed to my survival and journey of recovery. Be it physically, through prayers, financial support, encouragement, friendship, or whatever else. I wouldn't still be here nor could I have done it thus far otherwise.
Thank-you for your interest in my journey, I value that very much.Your support and encouragement has helped me keep a positive attitude and continues to empower me to keep working hard.
I have NOTHING to complain about!
So, seeing as I have been so far behind with these newsletters, I thought I would get February's in early, as it is a short month anyway
I read with interest on Record website www.record.net.au recently that, for all the wrong reasons, I made it into the Silver Medal position for the Top 10 Stories of 2013, see link http://record.net.au/items/top-10-stories-of-2013 (scroll to bottom) I am happy to come in at second behind a story surrounding the Pope as I don't consider myself anywhere in the same league or of the same profile of interest as the Pope and his family.
But honestly and in all seriousness, I am VERY humbled and surprised at the overwhelming interest and continued support from each one of you.
Apparently there is a saying in the journal world that goes "if it bleeds it reads"¦" (Just take a look at the content of the news tonight to see if this is true for attracting an audience.) So the initial interest and rubber necking is kind of understandable (even though I am no one special), but it is the CONTINUED and GENUINE interest with TANGIBLE support that is what has really surprised and humbled Bri and me.
The way that you all have cared for Bri and me is what has kept me positive on this unexpected event in our lives and my tough journey of recovery since.
As it has been all over most of Australia, February has been a hot and humid month here in Brisbane. This to be expected, so no real surprises.
It is the only month where we have had to use the air-conditioning through the night. I guess living in our little concrete jungle here, even if the outside temp drops a few degrees at night, the concrete stays hot and continues to radiate the heat until the next morning, when the sun heats it back up again. Just got to bear with it for a few more months and then by next summer I will be out of this monkey suit.
Congratulations to my parents who reached their 35th Wedding Anniversary on the 11th of this month! After nearly 17 years working in PNG (7 yrs the first time and 10 yrs just completed) they have officially accepted a new position in Perth, WA. They will begin Dad's new position as Chaplain at the Rossmoyne Retirement Village in August. When he last worked in WA, Dad was on their Management Board, so he is familiar with the Village and gets on well with their CEO, so a good team to be joining.
On January 22 2013, Linden Millist, a young missionary serving in Papua New Guinea, with Adventist Aviation Services PNG, was severely burned to over 50% of his body in an aviation engineering accident. Linden was airlifted out to Brisbane Australia, where he spent five weeks in ICU, and many more months on the Burns Unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital. He continues to receive ongoing therapy and treatment from Royal Brisbane Hospital. Unfortunately, Linden's recovery has been a long and painful journey and due to complications from the burns he has ended up with heterotopic ossification (calcium buildup) in both of his elbows and knees, leaving him with serious mobility disabilities. However, Linden does not qualify for permanent disability (as you have to be disabled for longer then two years to qualify), neither did he qualify for workman's compensation as the accident took place in Papua New Guinea. Linden's wife, Bri, had to quit her job in Perth and move to Brisbane so she could care for Linden. It will be at least 2015 before Linden is able to return to work. He must undergo several more surgeries on his skin, as well as orthopedic elbow and knee joint surgery, to remove the calcium buildup, followed by more rehabilitation therapy. Linden and Bri have been dependent financially on the generosity of donations during this past year and will continue to be so until one of them can return to work full-time. As we pray for God's healing, we can meet their practical needs by supporting them financially. Thank you for your love, prayers, and support.