Driver's recovery astounds experts
TEARS welled in Machelle Erb's eyes as she remembered how close she came to losing two family members in separate tragedies within a year.
“Now I appreciate everything I've got, I love my family and I take nothing for granted,” said a woman who has endured more heartache in the last 18 months then many people feel in a lifetime.
The roller coaster began for the Erb family in July last year when truckie Des Erb was involved in horror smash with a train at a level crossing near Proserpine.
The Gooburrum man spent 10 days fighting for his life in Mackay Base Hospital's intensive care unit with critical head and chest injures, along with a smashed shoulder and knee.
But as Mr Erb continued his miracle recovery, tragedy struck the family again when the couple's son suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle crash in Brisbane.
His leg had to be amputated.
Mrs Erb remembered the doctors telling her that her husband would not be able to breathe without the aid of a ventilator.
“But it was like a miracle - he began to breathe on his own - it was such a surprise to the doctors and all the rest of us,” she said.
It was this fighting spirit that helped Mr Erb endure numerous operations on his badly-injured shoulder and painful physiotherapy to regain movement in the joint.
And a good sense of humour has helped the couple deal with Mr Erb's memory loss following the crash.
“There's a lot of things he doesn't remember from before the accident,” Mrs Erb said.
“Yeah, like I don't remember being married to her,” Mr Erb joked in reply.
The truckie is also unable to remember anything from the crash or the following days in the ICU, and Mr Erb has still not been able to look at the photographs of the accident site.
What he does recall is the undying support his wife has shown through the tough months that followed the crash.
Following his discharge from hospital, the truckie was still unable to get in and out of bed unaided.
More than a year after the smash, Mr Erb is loading his sub-contractor's trucks, mowing lawns and managing the paperwork for the family business.
He was cleared to drive a car late last year and still plans to get behind the wheel of another truck.
“Our customers and sub-contractors were great,” Mr Erb said.
But as Mr Erb's miracle recovery continued, another tragedy struck the family in March when their son was involved in a motorbike accident in Brisbane.
As a result, he had his leg amputated and had to move back home to recover.
“It's a life-changing event,” Mrs Erb said.
“We know we're lucky to have him alive but it's still a process to go through.”
And despite the hardships the family has faced, they have remained up-beat in the face of adversity.
“People are always saying 'you're always smiling',” Mrs Erb said.
“Well, would you prefer me to come in here bawling?
“And there are a lot of other people that have dramas.”
The couple said they had received an unprecedented level of support from friends in the region.