After a day of fishing, beers and a barbecue, Nick and a group of 20 friends walked 500m to a nearby country club where they had more beers. One of the group decided to drive his ute to the country club.
At the end of the night, Nick was walking back to the house with a guy he’d met that day. Nick says, “I wasn’t stupid drunk, but we’d been drinking all day and were merry in that fearless way. The pick-up drove past at running pace and we hopped on the back, standing on the bumper. There wasn’t anything useful to grab hold of, so we clung on to the roof. If I’d been sober, I know I would have continued to walk the five minutes back to the house, rather than jump on the back.”
The driver had been drinking heavily and when he suddenly accelerated around a corner both men were flung off the back. Nick had blood coming out of his ear, was confused and agitated, and was trying to get up. The other man was unresponsive.
Someone called for an ambulance, but the first medics on the scene were local paramedics with basic training. They radioed for a helicopter but because they were 130km out of Perth, it took an hour to arrive. The other man died during the flight.
Nick was in a coma for two weeks. He had fractured the base of his skull and had an operation which removed a 3cm piece of bone to relive the pressure on his brain. This didn’t work, so a week later a second operation was performed which removed the whole of his forehead bone.
His family and fiancee Eve, an emergency doctor, didn’t know if Nick would wake up with minimal impairment or need to be in a nursing home.