Veteran motorcyclist Peter Fargey doesn’t know how he was suddenly thrown from his motorbike while riding in the New South Wales Outback.
He has been a regular rider since the 1970s, and almost all that time has been without a major incident.
But this changed during a trip with a friend earlier this year.
Peter’s BMW F800 hit a patch of “bulldust” near Louth, 99 km south west of Bourke. He was catapulted off his bike and suffered extensive leg injuries.
Along with stray livestock, road-trains and motor vehicle drivers dozing at the wheel, “bulldust” can be a major hazard for Outback riders.
Peter explains it as an accumulation of fine dust that drifts into potholes, making them virtually invisible.
For Peter and fellow motorcyclist Steve Lear, the trip was to have been a week-long “follow your nose” journey, a meandering exploration of the northwest corner of the state.
Steve, in fact, had already taken a tumble off his bike the day before, but without injury. So both motorcyclists were riding with caution when the accident happened.
Additionally, trucks were undertaking maintenance on the road they were on, so both riders were especially vigilant, Peter recalls.
“It was about 10 in the morning … I’m not quite sure what happened.”
Peter says when he came off his motorcycle about 40 km south of Louth, he had no mobile coverage. Friend Steve continued to ride on, unaware of his friend’s accident.
Peter lay beside his bike for about 20 minutes, alone and in increasing pain, before a couple in a campervan arrived.
By this time, Steve had returned. Peter was loaded into the front seat of vehicle and its driver offered to ride his bike back to Louth.
“I still had no idea what was going to happen once we got to Louth,” Peter says.
Meanwhile, things were rapidly getting worse. By now, Peter was in increasing pain.
He says the Louth publican’s wife, a former nurse, checked his blood pressure and heart rate and then mentioned the possibility of an evacuation by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).
“I thought that’s for sick people,” Peter says. “And I wasn’t sick. I’d just broken my leg.”
An ambulance crew arrived from Bourke. They lifted Peter out of the campervan and prepared him for the airlift.
RFDS Broken Hill doctor Catherine Dillon had taken the call but as the on-call aircraft was already on assignment, a plane was dispatched from Dubbo Base.
Pilot Craig Nethery and flight nurse Brendon Kiley were on board.
“Our main goal was to ensure a comfortable flight for Peter,” Brendon recalled.
“And certainly transporting a trauma patient by air means we must be very thorough in our clinical assessment on the ground and try to mitigate the risk of complications in flight.
“For example, a subtle chest injury may become quite serious once we are at altitude due to changes in air pressure.
“We constantly monitor a patient’s respiratory status and can lower the cabin altitude and/or implement supportive measures as required.
“Pain relief prior to moving a patient, appropriate spinal care and splinting of injured limbs in case of unexpected turbulence are equally important.”
After loading Peter, the flight flew to Wilcannia, about 240 km south, to collect a second patient who had broken her ankle.
Peter was transferred to Broken Hill hospital where his leg was placed in a temporary splint. And from there he was transferred to Adelaide Hospital on a second RFDS flight where he underwent extensive surgery. This included the insertion of pins and a plate in his leg, plus 57 stitches.
Peter called RFDS staff “a tremendous bunch of people”.
“I now have a great appreciation of the kind of work done by the RFDS and their dedication to service. This is a phenomenal service.”
Pictures courtesy of Steve Lear.