FEBRUARY 25 was the day Margaret Woolley got a second chance at life.
The 60-year-old truck driver was driving along the Warrego Highway near Oakey when four steel rods fell off a truck heading in the opposite direction.
“I thought it was sorghum stalks coming at me ,” she said.
“I saw four coming, three fell away. By the time the fourth got too close to me I realised then that it was what I thought was half inch square tubing, but it was solid steel.”
Travelling at over 100 kilometres an hour, the steel rod smashed through Margaret’s windscreen and impaled her at her sternum, just centimetres from her heart.
“I knew I had to do something,” Margaret said.
“My right hand was stuck on the steering wheel, I was paralysed. I couldn’t turn off cruise control, I couldn’t reach the pedals as I was pushed back into the seat.
“I just had to really study things and work out how I was going to deal with the situation and get the truck off the road without killing anyone.”
Margaret drove several hundreds metres to a stopping bay, stopped the truck with the handbrake and hoped someone would notice what had happened.
Thankfully two bystanders did see and called emergency services.
At the Toowoomba RACQ LifeFlight base, critical care doctor Jacob Crosdale and paramedic Simon Cadzow received the urgent call.
The helicopter was offline at the time, so the two emergency workers had to race to the scene on road while pilots Scott Nicholls and Murray Gladwin prepared the chopper.
Fire crews on scene made a large stand so the two LifeFlight crew members could access Margaret.
“It was one of those days where the whole system worked right. If every bit of that didn’t come together Margaret wouldn’t have survived,” Dr Crosdale said.
“She was barely conscious and had two things on her mind, making sure we turned the fridge off so her truck battery didn’t run flat and that she thought this was the last breath she was ever going to take.”
“We made a really quick decision to haul her out. When we moved her from sitting to out and flat on the board, she lost signs of life at the point.”
Despite some close calls, paramedics were able to save her.
“Once we got her outside the truck we had to cut the rod, as it was sitting up against her heart,” Dr Crosdale said.
“The steel rod was close enough that we could count her heart beat from the tip of the rod pulsing, which is a pretty unusual thing to see.
“When we were at the roadside and until we got airborne I thought she’d die. We stopped for another eight units of blood at Toowoomba on the way to Brisbane. It was only after we made that second take off with extra blood that I thought we might actually get there.”
After arriving at the Princess Alexandria Hospital, Margaret spent a day on life support and two weeks in the intensive care unit.
She is now back on her feet and this morning paid a visit to the LifeFlight crew that helped save her life.
“I just wanted to give them a hug,” she said.
Now, less than five months after the accident, Margaret is looking forward to getting back in a truck, though she doesn’t know when that will be.
“(My recovery) was just day by day,” she said.
“It’s still day by day… and probably will be until they turn me into ashes. You don’t get a second chance at life and not follow through with it and bugger it all up yourself.”
Two weeks ago police gave Margaret the metal rod that almost killed her.
Her daughters want her to frame it.
I didn’t realise how heavy it was. It feels good to hold it, because I’ve beaten the odds. I’ve beaten that piece of steel projectile.”
A 40-year-old Mount Cotton man was issued with three traffic infringement notices because of the incident.
He attended the Toowoomba Police Station on June 19 after police were able to locate the business of the truck depicted in CCTV.
They were: fail to ensure load on prescribed vehicle complies with requirements, fail to remove from road something which has fallen from drivers vehicle and is likely to injure, obstruct or damage and driver must give required particulars to a police officer.