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"I couldn't let him die." The incredible story of this surgeon and a man close to death.

Eight years ago, after having performed an operation on a severely injured motorcyclist, I was about to leave the hospital and head home. I was walking through the ICU at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital and decided to quickly visit a second patient who had been involved in the same motorbike accident and also undergone life-saving surgery.

When I arrived at his bedside, I looked at both him and his numbers on the monitors of the life-support equipment. Straight away, I knew he was in a lot of trouble and wouldn’t make it through the night. As I stood there looking at him, I had this overwhelming feeling that I just couldn’t let him die. I had to do something, but what to do would be the challenge given his vital signs and the magnitude of his injuries.

What I didn’t know at the time, was that many people were praying to support him and his family. So, I was part of a bigger plan, without knowing it.

After having confirmed my first impression of his condition with the senior ICU doctor and having spoken with the patient’s devastated family and wife (who was overseas in France at the time with their baby daughter), I made the decision to take him back to the operating theatre in one last bid to save his life.

Over the next few weeks, while he was still in an induced coma, his loved ones told me many stories about him and his many great attributes, including that he was a strong and communicative individual, physically (which I had already experienced), mentally and spiritually. I really became more and more curious to get to know him and talk to him.

Once he woke up and was able to speak again, Darryl and I finally got the chance to talk with each other! It was a fantastic experience to share both of our stories, and circumstances under which we met. Unwrapping the preceding weeks for both sides to this remarkable story was amazing and showed us both that our paths were meant to cross. We were both part of a miraculous story that had such a profound impact not just on us, but the many people who had shared the journey with us.

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Insight Australia motorcycle accident
Darryl with his wife and daughter in hospital. Image: SBS Insight / Supplied.

Watching and being part of Darryl’s recovery journey was a real pleasure; I admire him for his positivity and goal-oriented attitude, which he displayed day for day. I can’t recall one day, that Darryl was down in his mood. As a practising surgeon for many years, I have witnessed thousands of patients dealing with their hospital and recovery journeys in many different ways; a positive attitude makes such a big difference to the outcome of patients, of which Darryl was a prime example!

I very much enjoyed Darryl’s company; quite often at the end of my afternoon ward rounds, after having seen all the other patients, I went around to visit Darryl. It developed into not only a doctor’s visit, but also into a visit of a friend. It just came naturally, as both of us appreciated the growing friendship.

At certain times, if I had a bad day or I was just a bit drained after a long day, I looked forward to catching up with Darryl and hearing of his progress. Throughout our conversations I found my positive spirit and passion quickly rejuvenated, and I was back on track. I learnt to understand and even apply different communication styles and Darryl’s input challenged my practise as a surgeon in a positive way!

Once Darryl was discharged to rehab and then back home, we stayed in touch. On a regular basis, we catch up, get together for family birthdays or other celebrations and we enjoy going to rugby and soccer games. Last year we flew to Sydney for the weekend to watch Arsenal play and that same weekend celebrate Darryl’s seventh year anniversary of his miraculous survival.

Very early on in sharing our stories, we started to think big and dream. Clearly, Darryl’s survival story was meant to happen for a purpose. Many small and large-scale miracles occurred throughout his journey, which we both would like to share and testify to others. Our paths crossed via a tragic event; our relationship evolved over the years into a true friendship, and our mission became to challenge and support others going through adversity in their lives.

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As part of our Red Blanket Miracle project, which we launched three years ago together with Darryl’s wife Julie, we have been invited to share our stories in national trauma and emergency conferences, local nursing workshops, men’s shed and men’s breakfast church events and as a highlight were guest speakers at the annual RBWH Foundation Ball.

Insight Australia motorcycle accident
Martin with Darryl's family. Image: SBS Insight / Supplied.

Here's what Darryl had to say...

My first memory of Martin was him sitting on the side of my bed in ICU, wearing a big smile and this bright red polo shirt, embossed with the RBWH trauma services insignia. At the time, I remember glancing down at my left wrist and seeing it heavily bandaged.

The last memory I had, was that I was about to be involved in a high speed head on motorcycle accident with a wayward car trailer. At the time, I thought ‘broken wrist…how good is this, barely a scratch’. What I didn’t realise was I had sustained catastrophic injuries to much of my body.

For the past three weeks this complete stranger, wearing this bright red polo shirt, had battled against insurmountable odds, to save my life, and then continue to fight for my life, almost on a daily basis.

The 17 th of July 2010 is a day I’ll never forget. Not because of a catastrophic accident but because that day, I received a second chance at life. A miracle delivered by a complete stranger… a stranger named Martin.

Darryl and Martin are guests on tonight’s episode of Insight at 8:30pm on SBS.

This is what rebuilding your life looks like, watch a preview for tonight's episode of SBS' Insight.

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