Five months into his rehabilitation, Cardell proudly walked into the Toowoomba base and met with the crew who airlifted him after a routine dirt bike ride nearly turned fatal.
It was handshakes and smiles around for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Critical Care Doctor Nader El-Rabih and Aircrewman Eddie Balazero.
Last September Cardell, 43, a Kingaroy local, was riding through the forest trails between Cherbourg and Murgon when the throttle of his dirt bike suddenly jammed and he was thrown over the handlebars into a hard, dry creek bed.
The quick thinking action of Cardell’s brother-in-law helped to save his life. Despite his serious injuries, Cardell was doubled onto the back of the second bike and rushed to Cherbourg Hospital. His only chance of survival was an emergency airlift from Cherbourg by the Toowoomba RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter to the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital.
When the Toowoomba base received the call, Dr El-Rabih remembers thinking Cardell might not survive the 40 minutes it would take for the helicopter to fly to Cherbourg.
“I remember speaking with one of the crew and they said, ‘we won’t make it in time,’” recalled Dr El-Rabih.
When they arrived Dr El-Rabih realised Cardell was suffering from twelve fractured ribs on the left-hand side of his body, a punctured lung and several broken vertebrae. His chest wall had been completely cracked.
“Once I saw him from the door of the emergency room I knew what I had to do…it’s not easy to forget such a serious case,” he said.
Dr El-Rabih’s primary concern was stablising Cardell’s breathing and circulation which had been severely compromised by the collapse of his punctured lung.
“The lung condition that he was suffering from was life-threatening and was a nasty injury,” he said.
For Cardell to survive the flight to the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital, Dr El-Rabih had to rapidly perform an emergency procedure, inserting a drain into Cardell’s chest to re-expand his lung and improve his ability to get oxygen to vital organs such as his heart and brain.
As an experienced rider Cardell knew the importance of always wearing his safety gear. This time it literally saved his life.
“The one thing we always made sure of when we went bike riding was that we wore our safety gear,” said Cardell.
“I think if it wasn’t for the safety gear, especially the helmet, I would have been dead at the scene. The helmet didn’t have one scratch or dint in it prior to the accident.”
Now his mangled and scratched chest armour and helmet serve as lasting reminders of the force of impact.
“My wife and children didn’t know if they’d see me alive again when the chopper arrived,” Cardell said.
“It created a lot of anguish for them. But throughout the whole time the LifeFlight crew were in close consultation with my wife, advising her of everything they were doing or going to do and the importance of her helping to keep me calm and stable so I could be airlifted out.”
Cardell reached out to Dr El-Rabih after leaving hospital, posting his thanks on the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Facebook page.
“I read his story and knew exactly who he was. I said it was nice to see him doing well,” said Dr El-Rabih.
“He was in a critical state and the severity of his injuries just can’t be forgotten easily.”
Today’s reunion served as an important step in the recovery process for Cardell.
“This meeting has given my family and I closure on the event and is a way of saying a sincere heartfelt thank you with a hug,” said Cardell.
“To be able to meet the rescue crew who literally saved my life was an extremely emotional event for my wife, my children and myself.
“We felt it was important for the rescue crew to realise how much they are respected and cherished. It should give them a great sense of accomplishment and joy to see families reunited with loved ones who were once critical patients.”
Cardell is slowly recovering and looking forward to going back to work as a mechanical fitter next month.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of, and quietly thank, the staff from “Lifeflight,” he said.
“I still get choked up and emotional when talking about the incident or the great work Lifeflight does.
“I thank my lucky stars every day that we are fortunate enough in this country to have a service such as Lifeflight which enables people like myself to be reunited with their loved ones. Thank you.”
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