Patient Story -

Father winched to safety after spinal injury scare

A shocking mountain-biking accident should have left Brisbane dentist Andrew Paddison a quadriplegic.

But the father-of-two credits the quick medical intervention by his ‘angels of mercy’ - the RACQ CareFlight Rescue medical team – for his astonishing recovery.

Andrew was mountain biking with his brother-in-law at Lake Wyaralong, west of the Gold Coast, in September 2015 when he was suddenly thrown over the handlebars.

“A storm had started to develop rapidly and, in my rush to return to camp, I was negotiating a corner and was caught off guard by a sudden drop over a rock,” he said.

Andrew speared head first into the ground.

“I heard four distinct cracking noises and then felt the excruciating pain,” he said.

With the storm fast approaching, Andrew lay severely injured and unable to move. Several kilometres from the family’s campsite, the direness of his situation began to sink in. Then Andrew lost feeling in his right arm.

“I had no idea how I would get out of there,” he said.

Andrew’s brother-in-law called for help while the Brisbane dentist lay in agony, unaware of CareFlight’s arrival until the ‘angels of mercy’ were hovering overhead.

Doctor Maik Plaeschke and Paramedic Michael Webster were both winched down to treat Andrew.

“I didn’t realise at the time how close I was to becoming a quadriplegic, I was more concerned about my ability to return to work as a dental practitioner, which places a lot of strain on the neck and back.”

As CareFlight’s Pilot hovered skilfully overhead, on the ground CareFlight’s medical team placed Andrew on a spinal board before winching him back into the helicopter, all while a storm developed around them.

“I didn’t know how they would even get me up through the tree-line but the boys made it look easy,” Andrew said.

In less than 20 minutes, Andrew was delivered to hospital for urgent spinal surgery; a trip that would have been several hours long if he had to be retrieved by ground crews.

“If I had not been cared for properly and so quickly I could well be a quadriplegic – that is no exaggeration,” he said.

After eight hours of spinal surgery and 24 hours of sedation and intubation, Andrew was discharged after just six days in hospital. With twice weekly physiotherapy visits, he can now walk up to two kilometres at a time and is weaning himself off painkillers.

Andrew says he has a new perspective on life and takes nothing for granted. 

“My accident involved a lot of luck and the teamwork of no less than 50 emergency personnel in the bush and at hospital who cared for me throughout the entire experience,” he said.

“I can’t thank the CareFlight team enough for getting me out of there.”

Despite his ordeal he plans to get back in the saddle. “I plan to ride again but my mountain bike will be mothballed for some time,” he joked.