“It can be hard going,” he says. “Sometimes if it’s cold at the grounds or I’ve been sitting for a while it can be difficult but it’s a small problem compared to how things could have turned out. I could have lost my toes or part of my leg.”
Gary is so thankful for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters, he has donated money several times to cover the cost of fuel for a helicopter to perform a potentially life-saving mission, just like the airlift that saved his leg.
Today, he added an extra couple of kilometres to his tally, visiting the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter stand in the Agricultural Hall, where he was thanked for his support.
“Demand for the aeromedical services the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters provide is growing. We have had yet another record year with LifeFlight helping almost 5 and a half thousand Queeenslanders. Each chopper mission costs on average $12 500. Money to help cover those costs comes from sponsors and donors like Gary,” says LifeFlight Foundation Fundraising Executive Manager Fiona MacAnally.
In early 2010 the cattle farmer was working alone inside a silo at his Oakey property, clearing a blockage in the cone that funnels grain. An auger was grinding away at the blockage from outside. A rat ran up Gary’s leg, startling him and he fell into the cone. His foot and lower leg were trapped, caught in the grinder and severely mangled.
“I can’t stand rats! Hate them. I just fell. Don’t worry. The rat got caught in the auger too,” he says.
Seriously injured, Gary climbed back up the inside of the silo then down the outside to the ground. In agony and bleeding he still turned off the auger and other machinery, then rang triple zero.
“I was in a tremendous amount of pain,” he recalls, ” but you’re by yourself. The adrenalin just kicks in.”
He even offered to the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) to drive himself to medical help but there was no need – the Toowoomba-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Helicopter was deployed and a LifeFlight critical care doctor and QAS paramedic landed at his property.
“I thought, thank goodness. It was such a relief when I saw it,” Gary says.
8 weeks in hospital, 8 operations and 8 years later Gary has some occasional discomfort but believes the airlift to hospital and quick medical intervention saved his life and limb.
Appreciation for the aeromedical service became a family affair in February 2017, when Gary’s brother Jeff was kicked in the head by a bull while working alone at his Tara property. Jeff’s eye socket was ruptured and he was knocked out. He came to, lying on the ground at risk of being trampled by huge bulls.
An RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter came to the scene that day too and airlifted Jeff to hospital.
“So we’ve had two really good outcomes in our family, thanks to LifeFlight,” says Gary.
Sadly, Jeff passed away from cancer last month.
While Jeff’s family is no longer in the beef industry, Gary continues the family tradition enjoying his current role as RNA Councillor after decades of showing cattle himself. He’s started another tradition, with his donations to RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters.
“Rural and regional communities are among those who need the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters most. Like Gary, the people in those areas are also among our biggest supporters, holding fund-raisers and gathering donations for us,” says Fiona MacAnally.
“To show our appreciation to the farming community, especially in these tough times, we wanted to bring some joy and fun to them at this year’s Ekka.”
RACQ LifeFlight is proud to support EkkaNITES, the free action-packed two hour spectacular of monster trucks, a wild wagon chase and two incredible fireworks displays held in the Main Arena every night from 6pm.