By Mikayla van Loon
Brian Wiltshire, 69, truly is lucky to be alive after a motorcycle accident three and a half years ago left him with fatal injuries and saw him go into cardiac arrest, twice.
Having just been reunited with the quick-thinking bystander and paramedics who helped save his life, they were surprised by his miraculous recovery.
The Kilsyth South resident and his wife Robyn, who are seasoned motorbike riders and members of the Ulysses motorcycle club, joined a group of 15 for a tour starting in Ferntree Gully before heading up to Emerald and down through Gruyere and Wandin North on 1 December 2018.
Travelling along the sealed Victoria Road in Wandin North at about 40km per hour, Mr Wiltshire and the group reached a bend, when the front tyre of his Harley Davidson caught on something, sending both Mr and Mrs Wiltshire tumbling.
“All of these ribs [on the left] here were just shattered. I had a bleeding kidney. My shoulder was pulled out of the socket. 10 broken bones in my face, a broken nose, fractured skull front and rear and bleeding on the brain front and rear,” Mr Wiltshire said.
One of the first paramedics on scene, Ryan Weston stood in amazement as he heard the list of injuries and said “I know you say you’re lucky but I don’t know if you understand quite how lucky you are.”
Mrs Wiltshire herself also sustained severe injuries, a dislocated knee and some bleeds on the brain but still managed to crawl her way over to her husband.
“It was more important that if he had any consciousness at all that he knew I was ok, because I knew he would be worried about me.
“I just couldn’t believe that it had happened. So I’m just so grateful for the paramedics and Deb, all of them. They were so good just kicking in to do what they have to do and they all really helped in so many ways.”
Had it not been for local resident Deb Harper who was driving out of her street just after the accident happened, the result may have been much different.
As a school teacher for 40 years, Ms Harper had trained in first aid and CPR throughout her working life and had put her skills to use in two other situations before she met Mr Wiltshire.
Ms Harper said instinct kicked in and she started CPR on Brian almost immediately, something she estimates lasted 10 or 15 minutes until Ambulance Victoria could get paramedics there.
“I’m just so grateful that my job required me to keep my CPR for all that time and so I felt confident enough to help. It’s just a real blessing to see Brian,” she said.
Just six weeks before the Ambulance Victoria meet and greet on Friday 3 June, Mr and Mrs Wiltshire went back to Victoria Road in search of their saviour, having not seen Ms Harper since that fateful day.
“We went looking for her. We went to the road that they’re farmers on. We spoke to two or three different couples or families who finally said we’ll make a phone call because where we ring will know where [Deb is]. And that’s how we found her. We didn’t know anything about Deb before that,” Mr Wiltshire said.
For Ms Harper, hearing those sirens in the distance knowing they were approaching as quickly as they could, gave her so much relief in that moment.
Coming from Lilydale, Mr Weston was the first to assess Mr Wiltshire, remembering that his airways were blocked and blood was bubbling from his mouth, he said Ms Harper’s work was keeping Mr Wiltshire breathing.
“Pre-hospital care in Victoria is world class, but it all starts when a bystander steps in and starts compressions,” Mr Weston said.
“While bystanders alone will never replace an ambulance service, equipping people with skills to start the chain of survival; starting chest compressions or CPR and using an automated external defibrillator (AED) does save lives.”
Air Ambulance Victoria MICA paramedic Rupert Freeman followed in arrival and placed Mr Wiltshire in an induced coma before transporting him to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
“It’s basically the people that arrived first and looked after you early on that saved your life,” Mr Freeman said.
“I get to come in later and do the glory bit of flying you in a helicopter but that’s not the stuff that saves your life but it’s stuff that will stabilise you. What these guys did, these bystanders did, saved your life.”
Unable to remember anything of that day, even from before the accident, Mr Wiltshire said his memory begins three days before he left hospital, having been in intensive care and being operated on. He was in hospital for close to a month.
Reuniting with Mr Weston, Mr Freeman and Ms Harper, helped him put the pieces together of how he survived.
Still recovering under TAC care, Mr Wiltshire has returned to work but said in those years of recovering at home and since the accident he has bought over 600 non-fictions books to keep his mind active.
“I’ve always heard about people who just switch off and they enter into all sorts of negative stuff and I just needed to keep my brain active. So I just kept buying books and reading stuff and learning things.”
Mr Wiltshire’s prized Harley Davidson has been fully repaired and has been sitting in his garage ready to be taken for a spin.
“I haven’t ridden it. Well, not properly. Purely because I just haven’t got around to it. I’m not frightened of it. I don’t have any doubts about it. I don’t even blame the bike,” he said.
“It’s like when you fall off a horse, don’t say no, get back up, then make a call. That’s how I feel and that’s what I’ll do with the bike.”
Mrs Wiltshire unfortunately said she will never get back on a bike and although she would prefer her husband not to either, she just wants him to do what will make him happy.
Being a positive person, Mr Wiltshire said three good things came out of the accident, the first just how lucky he felt, second the messages of love he received and third being able to spend more time with his wife.
“When I came back from the hospital, there had been heaps of people that rang and left messages…none of us realise the impact we have on other people until something happens to you and I just felt so humbled,” he said.
“[Prior to the accident] we were busy. Robyn and I didn’t get a lot to do together because she was busy with her job. I was busy because I’m self-employed.
“But since then, our values have changed. We do a lot more together. We talk about a lot more things together. So fate moves in strange ways.”