Gerald Wilkie was your average Aussie bloke. He loved the outdoors, had a close-knit family, a mortgage and a dog. But the father of three also worked long hours, usually up to 65 a week.
On the 17th of May 2007, his life took a drastic and devastating turn when after getting caught up in a workplace accident, he was forced to do the unthinkable – tear his own arm off in order to save his life.
In the Fighting For Fair podcast, he bravely recounts the terrifying moment he got caught up in the machine, dealing with the aftermath and the fight to return to work that’s still not over.
Wilkie was running a rock crushing plant, doing a routine task that was taught to him by management, when his arm was caught in a machine and dragged in.
“I was managing to hold my own against the machine, looking around for a way out, an emergency stop or something but there wasn’t one,” he said.
In that moment, Wilkie was faced with one enormous decision.
“I was looking death right in the face and I thought I’ve got to get out of here,” he recounted.
The father of three says his life flashed before his eyes.
"I thought about everything in my life, from my mother, the bills, the dog, kids...if I thought about that now it would take me days but it only took me seconds at the time."
The action he was forced to take to get out of the machine was one not many people could go through.
"I had to use my body weight to break my bone and then use a jagged bone to cut the muscle and tear my arm off," he said.
Somehow Wilkie managed to walk 90 metres around the machine and used his foot to kick the only emergency stop that was there. Pushed up against the machine to stem the bleeding, he got his phone out and called his manager who was on speed dial.
"I told him I needed an ambulance and I needed it quick and then hung up on him because I didn't have time to talk to him and discuss what it was about," he said.
The entire time, Wilkie was in control of the situation. It wasn't until he had arrived at the hospital and signed a consent form for surgery that the adrenaline stopped, and the pain hit.
"With that they put me into an induced coma," he said.
Waking up the following day, Wilkie thought to himself "I made it" and "My arm's back on". Unfortunately, it wasn't entirely true.
The life-changing incident proved to be just the start of his battle, which included a five-year fight with Work Cover.
It was Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Australia’s leading social justice law firm, that took up the fight for Gerard in court.
"I had to learn how to get dressed, I had to learn how to shave, brush my teeth - because I used to be right handed but now I’m only left," he says.
Ten years later, Wilkie is still fighting to get a prosthetic limb to allow him to get some normality back into his life.
Listen to the full, incredible story and what happened next to Wilkie on the Fighting For Fair podcast. Go to iTunes, here, or to the Mamamia podcast app.
To find all our podcasts in one place, please go here, where you'll also find any books written by the many Mamamia guests.
To demonstrate the importance of fighting not just for our own rights, but for the rights of all Australians, Mamamia in partnership with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers brings you Fighting for Fair. True stories of social justice from around Australia.