‘I died three times’

Chinchilla farmer Brad Gitsham speaks about near fatal crash


Brad Gitsham on his property at Pelican, near Chinchilla, was involved in a serious accident three years ago.

Brad Gitsham on his property at Pelican, near Chinchilla, was involved in a serious accident three years ago.

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Chinchilla farmer Brad Gitsham is lucky to be alive but his positive attitude is something for us all to learn from.

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Chinchilla man Brad Gitsham died three times.

In his words, if he was "one number less, he wouldn’t have been revived". 

It was November 7 of 2014 when the beef producer and yard builder along with eldest son, Thomas, were driving a Nissan Navara along the Kogan Condamine Road bound for the Chinchilla racetrack for a working bee.

Thomas had not long received his learner license and had been driving his father everywhere, but on this afternoon the roles had unconsciously been reversed. 

At about 3pm the pair had pulled up at roadworks where the portable traffic lights had just turned red.

Brad, who was 48 at the time, had contemplated speeding up a little to follow the last car in just before the lights changed but he waited.

The driver's side of the vehicle Brad was travelling in during the accident.

The driver's side of the vehicle Brad was travelling in during the accident.

Unfortunately, the driver of the empty low loader behind them, allegedly on his phone, failed to see their stopped vehicle.

Their ute spun 90 degrees and became wedged in the front of the 35 tonne truck as it smashed its way forward. 

Brad, who was unconscious, was stuck in the vehicle for three hours before he was flown to Brisbane.

Thomas, whose seat belt broke on impact, watched him for an hour until he could be freed and taken to Toowoomba with neck pain.

Brad with his sons Nick and Thomas on Christmas Day 2014.

Brad with his sons Nick and Thomas on Christmas Day 2014.

Brad, on the other hand, had what he calls the “trifecta” of injuries; 16 broken bones including a crushed shoulder and two breaks in his back, internal injuries such as liver damage and a torn aorta and brain injuries similar to a stroke. 

When he woke after 10 days in a coma all he could do was move his eyes before learning to signal with a thumbs up. 

What a transformation, Brad with Thomas and Nick back home near Chinchilla.

What a transformation, Brad with Thomas and Nick back home near Chinchilla.

“They brought a bloke I went to school with into the ICU and that was about three or four days after I came out of the coma and that was the only communication I could do (thumbs up),” he said.

“I hadn’t seen this bloke for probably 30 years and they said, ‘Do you know who this is?’ and I did this (thumbs up), I knew who he was so that was the only reason they thought I was going to probably be alright because I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t do anything.”

Brad spent 17 days in ICU and then a brain rehabilitation unit.

When the Queensland Country Life visits, three years after the accident, Brad is a different man. 

Not only can he talk, he can walk with a wheelie walker, fix fences and check waters on his Gator vehicle. 

He has finished rehabilitation and now completes an hour of yoga and weights training another two days a week for his balance and strength. 

It’s quite the turn around from the man who had to pull his limp right arm out of the spokes of his wheelchair.

The vehicle after the accident.

The vehicle after the accident.

“I had to learn to breathe again and talk again and swallow again, all the things we take for granted because the brain function was next to nothing,” he said. 

Determination is one thing behind the miracle recovery. At the Rockhampton Brahman Week Sale last year Brad took his own medical advice and abandoned his wheel chair. 

He has ramp access to his home but refuses to use it, instead teaching himself to climb the few steps.

His motivation came from the difficult situations he saw others going through in hospital.

“You saw people that had completely lost their memory and their mind, a lot of times they had no physical injury,” he said.

“This poor bugger he had half his head missing, it was upstairs. They were just waiting for the swelling to go down in his brain.

“ One day when I was in ICU I was laying there and I couldn’t move and I hadn’t slept for a couple of days and I looked out the window and I could see the lightning and I thought hang on I’m warm and I’m dry there is some poor (bugger) probably sleeping on the streets of Brisbane who is not.”

The driver of the truck was sentenced to a small jail time for the accident.

Brad didn’t attend the court hearing nor has he seen the driver, but he doesn’t hold a grudge against the young man.

He said he made plenty of mistakes himself when he was young but he hoped that others would learn from his accident and refrain from using their mobile phones while behind the wheel. 

“I talked to a lot of doctors while I was in Brisbane about it, you see it all the time (mobile phone use),” he said.

“We went into town and there was a bloke on a motorbike checking his phone. Kids today they are just addicted to phones. My theory was we grew up and we learnt to drive and then got phones but kids today have had phones ever since they were (small).” 

Brad is now persistent to gain his independence and learn to walk unassisted.

“All the experts have said I won’t work but it’s up to me to prove them wrong I guess,” he said. 

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