It was an emotional reunion for Australia’s only one-armed competitive woodchopper, Nick Fredriksen when he finally met the doctor who saved his life, Dr Colin Myers, on hallowed ground at the Ekka woodchop arena - 20 years after a serious farm accident which resulted in Nick’s arm being amputated.
The champion woodchopper knows from personal experience the lifesaving benefits of aeromedical services and is a proud supporter of LifeFlight, the helicopter rescue service which has saved around 49,000 lives over 36 years. Nick has pledged to fundraise for the charity in 2017 as well as donate some of his prize money from this year’s events.
Nick has gone on to achieve international fame and success, recently travelling to the UK to compete in the Royal Welsh Show after videos of his one-armed woodchopping achievements went viral.
Despite the severe physical handicap he was dealt at the age of eight, the Kilcoy born-and-bred local has thrived in the face of his adversity and has always wanted to say thank you to the doctor who helped to save his life.
“I wanted to meet Dr Myers for a long time to thank him for being there to provide such expert medical care, when I lost my arm back in 1994,” said Nick.
Dr Myers was part of the aeromedical crew who airlifted Nick to Brisbane after his shirt was caught in a hay baler accident which resulted in the loss of his left arm.
For Dr Myers – a pioneer of aeromedical retrieval services in Queensland++ – having the opportunity to see Nick happy, healthy and triumphing in his sporting achievements is why he became a doctor.
“Often in emergency medicine we don’t get to follow up our patients. It’s one of those things where you’re involved briefly,” said Dr Myers.
“You put people back together, often they’re not really aware of what you’re doing and then they go into the hospital system.
“It’s absolutely wonderful when you do hear about people pulling through the serious injuries you looked after them with, but it’s even better when there’s people like Nick who have made such a success of their lives after what was going to be such a severe handicap.”
The Ekka woodchop arena served as a fitting backdrop for the reunion, the scene of many of Nick’s great victories over his remarkable 15 year competitive career which sees him swing his axe at events around Australia.
Today, Nick is a qualified heavy plant operator, an accomplished swimmer who competes at national swimming titles, and Australia’s (and possibly the world’s) only competitive arm amputee woodchopper.
Nick competed at his first Ekka at the age 14 and this year will compete in several woodchopping events, including the underarm, the standing woodchop and, for the first time in more than 10 years – the brother’s woodchop.
“They used to have it years ago when we were only kids and amazingly they’ve brought it back for this year and Luke and I gave it a red hot run,” said Nick.
Nick and his brother, Luke, placed third in the brother’s woodchopping event held last Sunday at the Ekka.
The Ekka competition is a family affair and Nick’s daughter, Maddie, aged 11, is a chip off the old block, competing in individual woodchopping events and joining forces with her dad in the “Jack and Jill” team sawing mixed event.
The lives of Nick Fredriksen and Dr Colin Myers have taken dramatically different paths over the past 23 years, with Nick achieving sporting fame and Dr Myers helping to revolutionise aeromedical services in Queensland. But they each know without aeromedical services like LifeFlight, neither would be where they are today.
That’s why it’s so important for Nick to give back and help fundraise for the LifeFlight Foundation. Nick needed a second aeromedical airlift in 2003 after he had another accident, crashing through glass louvres. With each LifeFlight airlift costing around $12,000, he has set himself a fundraising target of $24,000.
“It’s so important to me to give back to aeromedical services, like LifeFlight, because I’ve needed them myself twice and I know how much of a difference they make,” said Nick.
“It’s a service that I’ve donated money towards in the past and I now want to put the word out a bit more and get more people involved.”
Dr Myers also has a deep appreciation for aeromedical care, and has seen first-hand how fundraising efforts such as Nick’s make a difference.
“I think it’s wonderful when people give back. It makes an enormous difference and not just in the money they raise but also in terms of the social links with communities which are created,” said Dr Myers.
Money raised by Nick will go towards the LifeFlight Foundation, a community-based charity which supports the iconic RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter service.
2016-17 was a record year for LifeFlight for lifesaving missions with its aeromedical crews, community helicopters and Air Ambulance jets performing a record 5,252 missions throughout Queensland and around the world.
To support the LifeFlight Foundation visit:
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++Dr Colin Myers helped revolutionize Queensland’s retrieval aeromedical services and worked onboard RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters and other aeromedical providers from 1992 - 2005. He is currently the Executive Director of Metro North HHS and Director of Emergency & Children’s Services at the Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane.