Death cheated for third time
IT HAS been just over three months since surfer and "chippy" Chris Straszynski was cut from the mangled ruins of his Ford ute on the northern outskirts of Gympie.
The horror head-on smash left him with multiple injuries and clinging to life, but Chris defied the odds and lived to tell his tale, to the amazement of some of those who saw him that day.
Three weeks ago he started to walk on his own again, though he is still clearly fragile and facing a long road to recovery.
The 35-year-old was on his way home to Brisbane from Childers on October 13, 2011, when his ute inexplicably swerved into the path of an oncoming prime mover near the Gympie Pines golf course.
Chris's last memory of that day, and until about four weeks later, is of pulling over to the side of the highway some distance north of Gympie and having a sleep, then waking up and continuing his journey.
He has no recollection of the devastating event that occurred about 11am, where witnesses said they saw his ute in the middle of the highway before it collided with a north-bound Sawtell tipper and superdog trailer combination.
The month that followed is mostly a blackout for Chris, who spent six days in an induced coma and a total of seven weeks in the Royal Brisbane Hospital.
He was trapped for 45 minutes in the wreckage of his ute.
Chris's left foot was jammed under the brake pedal and almost had to be amputated during the struggle to free him.
He had two badly broken legs, a broken arm, fractured sternum, fractured ribs and punctured lung, a shattered knee cap and a broken pelvis, not to mention multiple lacerations.
Three off-duty ambulance officers were among the paramedics who helped save his life that day.
Once freed, Chris was transported to Gympie Hospital and stabilised before being flown to the RBH, where he spent 11 days in intensive care and another five-and-a-half weeks in the ward.
Two weeks after the accident he has one fleeting memory of waking up in hospital.
"Apparently I came to after about two weeks and pulled all the tubes out of my body," he said yesterday.
"I had bruising to the frontal lobe of my brain and that can send you a bit loopy."
Chris was released from hospital into the care of his parents and with ongoing rehabilitation.
He's not confident of ever being able to surf again, but said yesterday the Gympie crash was not his first brush with death.
When he was 24 years old he fell three storeys from a building and "got a few injuries", but "I got out of that one".
Then, when he was 30, Chris rolled his ute and managed to once again "walk away from it".
Getting over this accident however has been a much longer and more painful process.
Chris's left leg is still broken and isn't expected to heal properly for another seven months.
His left hand was "hanging by a thread" down to the elbow when they pulled him out of the wreckage and still requires a great deal of rehabilitation.
A grateful Chris and his parents recently made the journey to Gympie to thank all of the emergency workers who helped him on that fateful day last October.
"I am just so glad they were there on that day and that they can do what they do," Chris said.
"It was good to see them."