The Major Accident – 1995

The 22nd of May 1995, at this point in my life I was a 22 year old divorcee raising my eldest son as a single mother, Rhys was 2½ at the time of the accident.

All I know of the following collision itself is from witness statements of the police investigation and brief newspaper articles, the major article (pictured further below) being littered with errors in an effort to rush the story to print, including the age of the “boy” in the headline.

May 1995 – Rhys & I posing on my beloved Holden Gemini just days before the accident. You can also see in this photo how I already hold my body due to pain through my neck, shoulders and back from the 1990 car accident. Pain always kept hidden by my ever present smile.

On the day of the accident I’d had a friend staying with Rhys and I for a number of weeks and on that particular day all three of us had headed out during the early afternoon, I think it was to do something as simple as the grocery shopping.

What none of us realised as we left home that afternoon was that within the next ten minutes our plans were about to come to an abrupt and tragic halt.

Driving along in my Holden Gemini, we travelled west on a major road through the North Eastern Suburbs of Adelaide. Rhys strapped firmly into a booster seat with a static seat belt in the back seat and my friend along side of me in the passenger seat, both my friend and I wearing retractable seat belts.

The mood was happy and upbeat as we listened to music, my friend and I chatting and laughing about events that had taken place the night before in relation to a week of guest speakers at the church we were attending at the time.

Travelling east along that same stretch of road was an 18 year old young man driving a Sigma Station Wagon….. Intoxicated, both alcohol and cannabis in his system.

In his car, another young man in the passenger seat, a teenage girl in the back seat and two dogs that were unsecured in the back of the car.

Speeding, his driving apparently erratic for some time before the accident occurred as he headed along the road. He suddenly lost control of the car.

His car hit the gutter on his side of the road…. Bounced off of the gutter and headed across both east-bound lanes toward the sizable median strip.

As his car hit the median strip it became air borne and smashed head on into my car as we drove in the opposite direction.

At the moment of impact we were in the west-bound lane closest to the median strip.

The scene of the accident as was photographed by media. Photograph purchased from The Adelaide Advertiser during 1995.
The wreckage left behind shows how far my car had been pushed across the road. The red arrow indicates where I was in relation to the accident. Photograph purchased from The Adelaide Advertiser 1995.
The newspaper article rushed to print overnight … The “15 year old boy” was actually closer to 20 than 15, and more like a young adult rather than the boy that was reported. The only boy involved in this horrific car accident was my 2 year old son, Rhys.

Impact Summary

  • Head On Collision, Driver to Driver (Photos Above)
  • I was travelling at 60km/h (37mph)
  • Other Car Speeding – Airborne at Impact.

Injuries Sustained

  • 90 Minute Loss of Consciousness
  • Right Orbital Fracture (Eye Socket / Upper Cheek Area)
  • Broken Left Elbow – Pinning Required – Pins Removed November 1995
  • Severe BLACK Seatbelt Bruising Across Chest and Abdomen
  • Neck, Shoulder & Back Pain
  • Constant Headache
  • Bruising, Grazes and Lacerations to Legs, Arms and Face.

From all witness accounts that I have heard the sound of the accident was horrific.

Office and factory workers in nearby buildings described the sound of the crash as an explosive bang. Others said they thought that a bus on the local O-Bahn track nearby had somehow jumped the tracks and hit another bus travelling in the opposite direction head on at high speed.

The noise of the accident I have no memory of what so ever. I still have no recollection of the impact or even seeing the other car at all that day.

The next moment I remember after the impact, I was trying to open my eyes amidst the glaring brightness of the sun. Slowly a white sheet that was being held out stretched to shield me from the sun came blurrily into view. At which point I felt the presence of a man close to me, his voice calming as he began to speak reassuring words the moment he noticed I was beginning to rouse.

I had apparently been unconscious for 1½ hours.

During that time emergency workers had been working on removing three of us from the wreckage, myself from my car and the two men in the front seats in the other car. Both cars needing to be cut open with the jaws of life, like tin cans, to remove our injured bodies.

As time passed pain began to surge through my whole body during moments of lucidity before I felt myself fading time and again, my eyes forced closed by the brightness of the sun.

I remember opening my eyes at one time and in an instant suddenly becoming aware of my surroundings, the car that was crumpled in around me, the sound of broken glass as it moved and the work that was being done to remove me from the wreckage.

This picture of my Holden Gemini at the Police Impound Yard shows just how smashed in the driver’s side of the car was.
The front view showing the force of the impact from a different perspective.
Discussing the accident with the investigating officers while looking over the car. I even found $10 still in the ashtray… And yes, that is a Jesus sticker on my car (from another lifetime ago). Curiously, according to these two police officers here they find an interesting, if not spooky, correlation between what stickers are on cars, what music is playing and how people recover, survive or don’t.

Drifting between states of consciousness as emergency workers prepared to lift me from the car the pain throughout my body and face was felt, but not enough to warrant anymore than simply crying through all the bewilderment.

My left arm however, every slightest movement as I began to be lifted from the wreckage caused me to scream with utterly intolerable pain.

Still very much dazed and fading through levels of consciousness I remember moments of travelling in the ambulance and asking if my son was okay.

Rhys had been well taken care of. Where the accident had occurred there was a block of units nearby, this was where a couple of young men lived that I knew from the church we attended at the time. They had heard the impact and like everyone else in the area had came out to see what the noise was.

Thankfully one of the men recognised Rhys and realised who was in the car. I was reasonably well acquainted these men, not so much I would say we were friends as we moved in different social circles. But, I did know them well enough to know they were good blokes who would have taken great care with Rhys during such a traumatic time as he watch on while his mum lay unconscious in the car.

Smart thinking had them take Rhys into a small deli near the accident where they could see what was happening and yet try to distract Rhys with a treat.   

As it turned out I was the only one seriously injured physically in our car. Rhys had a small graze on his neck from the seat belt and my friend in the passenger seat had a cut on her forehead that required stitches along with a similar cut on one knee.

I was rushed into the Emergency Department of our local hospital and it was here that I began to come to, somewhat more fully, as a wave of extreme nausea swept over me and I suddenly vomited all over the examination room floor. Perceiving my embarrassment as I apologised profusely, the nurse tending to me took the time to explain it was natural due to all the adrenalin in my body, then she stood by to comfort me as the next wave of nausea hit.

Now lucid to the fullest degree during this time, the pain in my arm was excruciating and my face felt like it was completely disfigured.

When I was able to make my way to the bathroom within the following 24 hours I was truly fearful about looking in the mirror. Through the mixture of pain and swelling that was tinged with a weird sensation of numbness in places and my inability to speak properly, I really was terrified of what I was going to see. Fear of disfigurement that was profound, fear I never spoke of at the time and rarely have since.

The pain was extreme as I was lifted from the car. However, the care taken while I was being lifted from the car, was an absolute credit to all of those who worked hard to ensure I was made as comfortable as possible.
May 25th 1995, three days after the accident, arriving at my parent’s home to recover as they helped me care for Rhys. The bruising and swelling still clearly visible as I mustered a small smile amidst the pain in my face.

Many X-Rays were taken of my arm, face and chest, while plans began to be made in relation to the surgery to my left elbow which took place at lunch time during the 23rd of May.

I will address my elbow repair in another piece at the following link due to that being a saga all of its own as a result of wounds being incorrectly dressed and the pins cutting away under my skin, 1995 – Elbow Repair, Surgical Care?

The morning following my surgery, the 24th of May, I was visited by a doctor I had not yet seen, and while my arm and face were taken into account there was no such thought given to the period of unconsciousness and subsequent signs of the concussion, such as the vomiting and headache.

No scans or x-rays of any kind were performed in relation to the head trauma apart from my face. No investigation then, which was the standard practice for the time … And certainly no investigation into the head trauma since, irrespective of the progressive decline of my health and physical condition since that time. The head trauma is in the past and apparently not relevant.

The only enquiry in relation to any head trauma was simple observations by the nursing staff during my short hospitalisation from 22/05/1995 to 25/05/1995, observations I had no knowledge were being recorded until I acquired my medical records during 2016.

The only focus of the head trauma being the Orbital Blowout Fracture to the right side of my face and my teeth. I remember the focus specifically on my teeth because I had been made to feel so humiliated as I was examined that morning on the 24th of May during those doctor’s rounds.

I was sitting up in bed, trying to eat the Cornflakes that had been served to me for breakfast, amidst pain in the left side of my mouth and difficulty in opening my mouth due to all the facial pain from whatever had smashed into my face during the collision.

Moments before the doctor arrived I had just taken another mouthful and was slowly chewing through the pain as the doctor began to speak to me.

Without even so much as giving me the opportunity to clear my mouth, let alone take a mouthful of water to rinse my mouth, the doctor stepped up to me and shoved his fingers straight in my mouth, Cornflakes and all.

There was no thought to seek my permission for such an intrusive form of examination, let alone voice his intention to stick his fingers in my mouth.

No, he just stepped over, stuck his fingers in my mouth and started yanking on my teeth to determine if any were loose….. His displeasure of the Cornflakes from my mouth all over his fingers clear to see by the look on his face as he stepped away to wash his hands in the nearby basin.

Still somewhat groggy from both the obvious concussion and all the various medications to that point, I was in no way able to assert myself in the situation. This particular doctor clearly needing some lessons to improve his bedside manner.

Other than these moments, all medical attention was focused on my left elbow alone.

My arm and face were so painful during the first week after the accident that I do not remember any other significant pain apart from a headache.

However, the headache itself, along with neck and shoulder pain was something I had come to live with as part of my daily life for the past five years due to the first car accident during 1990 and the subsequent dismissal of that pain by all medical practitioners involved.

As that first week after this accident progressed into the second week I began to feel pain through my whole body from the lesser injuries.

I had deep cuts to my legs from where the car had crumpled in around them, significant bruising above my left knee which left a hard lump of scar tissue that took over 15 years to dissipate, along with cuts and grazes to my arms.

My chest and abdomen had a black seatbelt impression, the deepest darkest shade and depth of bluish purple black that I never imagined my body could even produce in bruising.

Eventually I began to feel the pain of the impact through my entire body.

It is little wonder that my entire body began to ache, just the force of the impact alone would be enough to make even the strongest person’s body ache as mine did.

Sadly from the other car a fatality occurred, the young man in the passenger seat had been taken to hospital in a critical condition and passed away, within a number of days if my memory serves me correct.

The death of this young man made even more tragic by the fact his death occurred due to the unroadworthy nature of the vehicle they were in. The passenger seat in the car … It had NO Bolts holding it to the floor … His death so avoidable had that seat been bolted as it should have been.

Maybe it was just his time, and maybe he would have died irrespective of the seat being unbolted, but it is a question no one will ever know the answer to.   

The driver of the other car had his feet and toes pinned, that I know of, and I am sure he must have sustained many other injuries too.

The young girl in the back seat sustained minor injuries, along with the two traumatised dogs that required minor treatment and care.

Added to the intoxication of alcohol and cannabis that caused this accident, along with the passenger seat that was not bolted down, the unroadworthy nature of the car was shocking.

The accelerator peddle in the car had a tendency to stick as it was pushed to the floor, A BELT was then used to pull the peddle from the floor when acceleration was needing to be slowed while driving. I can’t help but wonder if this is how he lost control?

So many stupid decisions made by one careless teenager, decisions that not only wrecked his own life, but took the life of his mate and caused suffering to so many people.

Still, I could not hate him, I could not even find anger within myself toward the young man who had cause me so much pain, all I felt was sorrow and pity for the suffering I could see him enduring for the rest of his life through so many careless acts.

Once again I was thrown into a forced situation of seeking compensation, this time through the Road Accident Insurance Companies.

Only this time I refused to play the money making games of the medical and legal practitioners involved, as they made themselves wealthy at my expense, through the pain and suffering of my son and myself.

I chose to keep the amount of pain I was really experiencing to myself. Rather than be subjected to the Psychoanalysis and labelling of a Malingering Money Grabbing Compensation Fraud, as I had been previously during the recovery from my first car accident, March of 1990.

Once again, no amount of money I could ever receive from this accident would ever be enough for me to allow myself to go through that horrendous ordeal again, as I have outlined here in The Work Cover Experience – Insurance Doctors.

As a result of the first car accident and how I was treated by both medical and legal practitioners I had already learnt to live with intolerable amounts of pain hidden behind a smile, and I simply continued to live with greater amounts of pain hidden behind a smile.

I felt had the choice to either pick myself up and push on irrespective of unending pain or be honest and risk being labelled a Malingering LIAR and my pain given such titles as Functional Overlay, Subjective Pain or being dismissed as a “Neurotic Depressed Woman”.

And to be perfectly honest, as I sit here 23 years later, as a 45 year old who has been tortured mercilessly by my own body all these years, NO AMOUNT of financial compensation could have ever been enough to compensate me for all the damage that was done that day.

Being a single mother at this time during 1995 I chose to focus my attention on the trauma that Rhys was suffering through. Rebuilding our lives in a way that I felt was most therapeutic to the emotional trauma he had experienced.

As time went on for Rhys and I our lives got back to normal amidst medical, therapy and legal appointments, along with the police investigation and court case that was to follow regarding the death of the young man.

Neck, shoulder, lower back pain and headaches persisted … I had Physiotherapy here and there, sought help when absolutely needed and took Anti-Inflammatory medication as prescribed during the most intense periods of pain. But life pretty much got back to normal for Rhys and I… Until…

1996 when Rhys and I were involved in yet another car accident that was not my doing, this time we were both passengers….. 1996 – Car Accident Number 3!

At this point I should also say that as a result of the 1996 car accident, the issue of Accident Insurance Companies and Compensation became an even more complex affair. In the end the 1996 car accident was wrapped up with the 1995 car accident as I was forced to take legal action against Daniel, then boyfriend now husband (it’s all a bit of a joke really, just game play for academics).

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