ON THIS DAY - 5th JUNE 2004
By Daniel’s Mum
It was Saturday, June 5th 2006. I heard Danny get himself up for work. It was still pitch black so I'm guessing it was about 5.00am. I could hear him rummaging around in the kitchen quietly chatting away to Breeze, his dog. I snuggled up in my warm bed ...I'd sleep for a couple more hours.
When I woke up at about 7.00am the sun was shining - it was a beautiful crisp winter's morning. I was sitting outside with the dogs when Ashley got up. She was cheerful and looking forward to going shopping with her Auntie and we chatted about her and Danny and their plans for the future. She was excited. They'd just opened a 'HomeSaver' account in joint names. When her Aunt arrived, I waved her goodbye and started cleaning the house ready for Sam's visit. Sam was the wonderful new man in my life. He lived in the Barossa Valley and I in the Southern Wine regions so there was a good hour and a half commuting. This weekend he was coming South to spend the weekend with us. It was time to get the house all cleaned up.
I was terribly house proud - even for someone who lives with big dogs inside. The biggest job was vacuum cleaning to deal with all the fur and bits and pieces the long coat of the dogs invariably drags inside. My vacuum cleaner poles were missing. Huh? Where are they? I looked high and low. "Aargh! The shed - I'm betting Danny's been cleaning his car again..." He was a clean freak when it came to his cars. I wish he'd kept his room like that but ehh. that's a teenager for you. I trekked out to the shed to find the poles. Nope...not there either. I picked up my phone and buzzed him at work - he was on a break. "Danny...do you know where the vacuum cleaner poles are?" His response was vague...aargh - I didn't have time for 'vague'. "Danny! Help me out here?" He mentioned something about Ashley having brought them inside last night. I'd already looked inside the house. "I don't know Mum" he said. Bugger it! "You have your own vacuum cleaner out there!" But I could tell he had no idea where they were and they had to be somewhere...
I did find the stupid poles - they were under some clothes on the freezer in the laundry. Yes, I remember now, he did get Ashley to bring them in from the shed. He had been working on the washing machine last night and when it didn't work properly, the clothes that were in it had to come out again. Gosh it'll be nice to have the washer working again. We'd had a bit of a giggle about it all last night as he took it for its maiden test after he'd replaced all the bits. It worked beautifully right up until the 'spin' cycle. He'd machined up these new 'heavy duty' springs for the bowl and it would appear they were a little too 'heavy duty' -- the poor thing almost danced right out the door!
I remember Danny and I looked at each other and laughed. "Yes well..." says Mum, "maybe high performance springs don't belong in things that wash your clothes..." Having the machine fixed was a belated Mother's Day present. He'd picked up the parts he needed from my ex-boss Stuart Spier yesterday. Stuey rang me late in the day to tell me he'd met Danny because it had been many years since he last saw him. He was stunned...told me what a strapping, good looking lad he was. Yes he was. I relayed Stuey's message to Daniel last night. He brimmed with pride - chest all puffed out.
I suddenly felt guilty for making such a song and dance about the damn poles. I thought about calling him back to let him know I'd found them...but I elected not to disturb him because I figured his lunch break would be over by now.
With the house now sparkling and smelling fresh, I was making some avocado dip when the phone rang. It was 'Danny's number' ringing - by that I mean, we had a separate ring tone set up on the land line so that my business calls could be deciphered from Danny's friends ringing. I answered the call. I don't always answer that ring-tone but this time...?
It was managing director of Diemould Tooling. Now in all the years I dealt with the company (they were a client of mine before Daniel started working there) I can count on one finger how many times this man had spoken to me. Obviously there was a reason why 'he' would be calling. Immediately I was guarded. I knew a few days beforehand Daniel had been called back into work on his day off because he'd apparently made a mistake on one of the tools. I was quite peeved off at the attitude of whoever rang him that morning because Danny was quite convinced that he might lose his job when he got off the phone. Apparently the 'mistake' was a costly one. "Hang on Danny," I had said to him, "You'll not be losing your job for making an honest mistake. I promise you that" I reassured him.
So why was I getting this call from the Manager? I heard the words 'bad news' and immediately went into defense mode. I was ready to argue about this supposed 'mistake' and how on earth a 1st year apprentice could be held accountable. It seemed the only logical reason he was ringing. But...no just a minute - I started to hear words like 'accident' and "I'm so sorry"... My head became very suddenly heavy as those words started to register. The blood inside me vanished as my body gave way and I fell to the floor. I recall asking whether Daniel was still alive. I was told he was when the ambulance took him. There were more words from him, most of them disappeared into oblivion as I was battling with what mattered. He'd suggested I call a taxi and the company would pay. I knew he was taken to Flinders Medical Centre. My voice wouldn't work...I was kneeling on the floor gagging trying to speak but all I managed was to throw the phone down on the hook.
I had to get to the hospital and getting a taxi out here was not an option. Sam was still some distance away from my place so I'd have to get myself in there. The phone rang again - Danny's ring-tone again. I looked at the damned thing for what felt like hours ... ring ring ring. I ended up answering it. It was Ashley. I could tell she knew - neither of us said much. There was panic in her crying and that was all the conformation I needed...no - this was no 'small' thing. Sam was calm. He tried to tell me not to panic and also tried to call the hospital to see what he could find out. They would not give him any information.
Thankfully as I raced to get my car I noticed young Adam was working on his car in the shed. He came with me. I drove and he dialed numbers on my phone. The ER nurse wanted to speak to me and told me to pull over, "Just speak - I'm not stopping - just tell me how Daniel is!" She asked me where we were at that point and whether we were near a Police station. Christies Beach Police Station was 5 minutes away. She urged me to go there and get a Police car to take us in. All they were saying at this point was that Daniel was alive but 'serious'. I hurled the car left at Beach Road. There were so many traffic lights now. We wait at the red signal as seconds felt like hours. I won't deny, I ran two red lights as carefully as I could. I could not sit there patiently waiting...I just couldn't.
We ran into the Police Station and there was no one at the desk. I rang the bell...waiting, waiting. My heart was beating so fast I thought I was going to pass out. Finally a woman came out of the door. "Yes, can I help you?" She looked annoyed - perhaps we'd disturbed her lunch...I don't know and nor did I care. I explained to her what the ER nurse had said. The woman looked at me blankly. "Oh they shouldn't do that...they don't have the authority." she said. I looked at Adam who obviously couldn't believe what he'd just heard either. So we ran back out to the car. I was too wound up by this time - I threw Adam the keys. I'm guessing both he and I thought that was a safer bet.
When we arrived at the hospital I was ushered into a small room where Ashley and her Mum were already waiting. I hugged Ash as she cried uncontrollably. I'm not sure what came over me at that moment but it was like everything inside me was about to rebel. It's hard to explain...but it felt like I had two choices at that point - give up or fight. It must have appeared like I had turned to stone . With gritted teeth I kept telling myself, no - he is not going to die - I won't hear it.
The ER doctor came in and he told us that both of Daniel's feet had been completely severed in the accident - and his arm, well...there was a big questionable as to whether they would be able to save it. How strange...none of this seemed to register, "Will he live?" was the only real answer I was looking for. The ER Doctor told us that Danny was coherent when he was admitted so these were all good signs. He thought he had a good chance of survival...90% was the estimate although that was only forthcoming when I pressured him for some odds. This was all pending a brain scan. The scan confirmed there was no head trauma - so there was hope. That fighting spirit that welled up inside me suddenly felt like it had planted its feet on the accelerator. My boy was not leaving this earth and that's all there was to it.
Some hours later Daniel was moved to the Intensive Care Ward. I saw Danny's Nanna and Granddad along with his Uncles, Aunt's and cousins in the waiting area. We all looked at each other without really knowing what to say. I remember seeing everyone look so scared. My ex defacto partner Tony was there too. He was like a big brother to Danny and he looked like he was in shock. I saw him crouched down against the corridor and when I went to see him he was unable to look up let alone speak.
I'll admit It annoyed me that people were thinking the worst. A couple of Danny's closest mates were optimistic though - that's more like it I thought...and I quietly fed off their confidence. That was until the doctor gave us the news about the chest trauma. Suddenly the odds plummeted - from 90% to very, very slim. This ICW doctor made me furious. What the hell does he know? He doesn't know my Danny or his amazing will. "Don't write him off." I remember warning him, "Don't you bloody dare." It was perhaps 5.00pm before I had the opportunity to see Danny. So many doctors and nurses rushing around him with all that equipment - it was surreal and absolutely terrifying. His doctor, the one I now quietly referred to as Dr. Death was doing all he could - but he wasn't God. I didn't disliked him, just the news he always managed to bring. I wanted to shake him and scream, "Just go and fix my son!".
From that point on things became very muddled. I remember at 3.00am the next morning I awoke from the effects of the sleeping tablet one of the nurses had kindly given me. I sat with Danny in the now silent and calm IC ward. I needed some quiet time to take this all in. I needed time to talk to him and let him know how much I loved him - how much we all loved him...how much we all needed for him to fight. Looking at him he was clearly not whole - his body lay short in the bed on account of his feet missing. It did not phase me. I knew we could get through that and he would have the best, most decorated prosthetic feet in the world. I didn't talk about his feet or any of his injuries. I didn't want him to be scared. The main thing I kept whispering to him was, "You keep fighting baby."
I remember scanning him, paying careful and meticulous attention to every detail. His eyes were closed but they had the most beautifully shape to them. In their glory they were of the deepest dark brown - sincere eyes, the kind we sense trust in. His hands, still dirty from work - gosh how they'd grown. I held my hand against his. It didn't seem that long ago they would have snuggled neatly into mine...now they were a man's working hands. How many times did I grab those hands and hold them so that he wouldn't dash out on the road...or just for the sake of holding them? He looked after himself - his hair was neat and still styled as it would have been when he left for work. If there was anything Daniel didn't skimp on, it was hair product. I noticed lots of cuts and small gashes around his chest and arms but I never ventured to look beyond what was covered - I didn't dare. What little I saw was terrifying enough - and how ironic I thought - knowing how as a little boy he would run to me with the tiniest cut...seeing what this machine did to my baby was beyond comprehension. I just hoped he would not remember any of it...
At 3.05pm on Sunday the 6th June Daniel's life support was switched off. There was a Policeman present and of course the Dr. Death who ultimately brought us the worst news of all. I saw sincere anguish in this man's eyes once he relayed the news. Clearly these people are amazing in their efforts to remain focused and realistic in the face of grief and shock.
I remember walking out of the consult room and seeing Danny's Nanna looking at me. I remember her eyes begging for good news and when she saw mine I saw the colour disappear from her face. I'll never forget the piercing screams from Ashley as she and Danny's friends walked up the hospital corridor - no words were uttered...just questioning eyes everywhere. I watched Ashley fall to the ground and all I could do was keep walking. I saw all these wonderful young people, normally full of laughter, suddenly devastated looking at each other in disbelief. I remember my long time friend Bec as she and her family walked down that same corridor toward me...she knew right away - her face just awash with dread for what lay ahead. It's every mothers worst nightmare. Sam, my ally in hope, who fed me nothing but optimism, he was convinced Daniel would survive and when all that hope vanished...there was nothing to do but hug me and cry. I don't know whether I cried though. I was just so numb with fear, I had no idea what to do...
Due to extensive internal injuries, Daniel's brain had been starved of oxygen - he was brain dead. I heard it and yet I didn't understand a word. How could he be brain dead when there was no head trauma? It would be many weeks before those questions were answered via the autopsy report. What did it matter though - those questions change nothing - the end result is the same.
I so clearly recall the moment all the fight in me disappeared. It happened as I held him when the life support was turned off. The harrowing process of death will live with me forever. What they don't tell you is that none of this is instant...the body doesn't just stop, it has its own survival instinct albeit it was subtle. I felt myself disconnect completely. The scene changed and quite suddenly this became more like a movie than real life. I'm now looking down at her - his Mum. And there was Sam, crying - not really knowing where to look. The Doctor? He just looked defeated - he's probably seen this a hundred times. The Policeman closed his book and turned away.
A few hours later we arrived back home. Home was once a place I loved to be. This place - our little cottage in the country, it was our dream home. Now suddenly it dawned on me that I would never see Daniel straddle that gate again. I'd never hear him chuckle or watch him chasing Liia around after his sock...or emerge from the shed covered in grease with the only hint of white being from his cheeky smile. We worked so hard to make the dream come true...all his handy work was everywhere...his clothes still on the washing line for God's sake. I saw the vacuum cleaner poles and it dawned on me that this was the last thing we talked about - bloody vacuum cleaner poles. There was a build up of bile in my stomach as my throat filled with a mass that caused me to gag - the air in my lungs vacated. I remember screaming...
That day ended any hopes and dreams Daniel ever had. It changed the course of so many people's lives. Hope turned to fear. All the dreams spun into oblivion. Every aspect that was once positive became horribly distorted with anger and confusion.
The sad reality was that this horrendous journey was just beginning.