Paralysed surfer defies odds to stand proud after accident
A 36-year-old Sunrise Beach surfer who was paralysed nine months ago and told he could remain a paraplegic for life has walked into the Noosa Heads ambulance headquarters to thank his team of rescuers.
Andrew Pink has amazed paramedics by not only doing a charity climb up Mt Coolum with his wife Lucy and three children, but by defying all odds and standing up to surf at Teewah Beach.
Mr Pink recalled how one minute he was happily riding a wave off Noosa National Park and the next he was floating face down in the ocean, unable to move a muscle.
"I thought my time had come," Mr Pink said of his touch-and-go surfing accident on the Australia Day holiday
"After falling off a wave I hit my head on the ocean floor causing my body from the head down to be completely paralysed.
"I was face down in the water and unable to move."
Fortunately, one of Noosa's most respected and talented surfers, Dean Brady, was on hand with a cool head and the experience to know the surfer needed to be handled with extreme care.
Mr Brady said Mr Pink's immediate danger was drowning, but was aware the stricken surfer may have been suffering severe spinal injuries.
The gun surfer is the surfing coach of Mr Pink's sons Ethan and Rueben, and was out in the water with the family enjoying the shoulder-height surf at low tide.
"I just saw Andrew fall awkwardly off his board," Mr Brady said.
"He basically just caught the inside edge on his board and went flying head first and I thought that looked awkward.
"When he popped up he was face down so I sort of sprint paddled into him.
"Luckily I had had done lifeguarding in the past, I knew how to do a proper roll if a person is face down with a spinal injury."
He said Mr Pink's face showed a lot of shock, but he was glad to see his rescuer.
Had Mr Brady not been so observant and acted quickly, Mr Pink's distress could have gone unnoticed and he would have drowned in "about 2ft of water".
"He later said it felt like he was down (in the water) for a minute, but I reckon he was down for 15 seconds, it would have felt an eternity for him but I got to him pretty quick," Mr Brady said.
"I took him out to the deeper water and I just held him for about half an hour before the lifesavers got to him and then we got a spinal board to him.
"It was quite challenging at times because I had to go under a few big sets from time to time while bracing his neck."
Mr Brady's response was exactly what Mr Pink needed right at that moment.
He gently turned him over to allow him to breathe as alarmed onlookers called triple-0.
Eventually Mr Brady, with the help of lifesavers and fellow surfers, was able to get Mr Pink to shore, across the rocks to the waiting paramedics and the emergency care helicopter which rushed him to hospital in Brisbane.
Hospital scans of Mr Pink's injury showed an "incomplete" C3/C4 cervical spinal meant it was highly unlikely he would ever walk again.
Mr Pink immediately set about defying the odds with sheer determination to spend quality time back on the beach with his wife and their three children.
Mr Brady said he was blown away by Mr Pink's determination to recover.
"He even surfed a few weeks ago, he stood up on his first wave, it's quite a remarkable story," he said.
"He nailed it, we were at Teewah and there was the beautiful little wave out the front."
Mr Pink, who moved with his family from the UK last year for the dream beach life, said it had been quite a journey to get to that point.
"It was an amazing feeling, obviously it was fairly limited to the way I used to surf, Dean pushed me on to a wave. It was incredible," he said.
"I guess I've been very lucky with my recovery, but I've still got a long way to go.
"I've got life changing injuries, I'm limited in what I can do, I can't walk long distances and I've got nerve pain.
"I'm extremely lucky to be able to just walk down to the beach … to watch my kids surf was my ultimate goal.
"I have so much going for me, so in my head I just thought that there's no way I can spend the rest of my life not being able to move properly, I was just so determined to get up.
"I think the quicker you get up with type off injury, if you can, the more likely it is you're going to improve."
Mr Pink said he would be eternally grateful to Mr Brady and all his rescuers, including the paramedics for what they did that day to save him.
"One false move and I wouldn't be walking today, so I want to thank them for that," he said.
Queensland Ambulance Service on Friday morning reunited Mr Pink with Mr Brady and members of the emergency response team, which included emergency medical dispatcher Hayley Tapia Vergara and responding paramedics Troy Jones, Gary Lewis, Richard Kirkpatrick and Jeffrey Bradfield.
"One of the paramedics, Gary I think, phoned me when I was in the Royal Brisbane Hospital to see how I was doing and at the time I couldn't move my hands to hold the phone, a nurse had to hold it for me," he said.
"It was just so kind of him."
Mr Pink continues to amaze everyone with his ability to overcome his mental and physical challenges.
"After a couple of hours from arriving at the hospital it resulted that I had fractured my spine and dislodged a number of discs in my neck which had impacted my spinal cord," he said.
"When I asked the consultant if I was going to ever walk again, he responded by telling me that it is not looking positive.
"At that moment my whole world came crashing down as I looked up to (wife) Lucy with tears in my eyes knowing that our lives would never be the same again."
He then had a major operation a couple of days later that involved removing the pressure from the spinal cord and fusing his spine together using bone graft from his hip.
"After a couple more days I started to recover from my operation and I started to notice slight signs of movement coming back which was a really positive sign," he said.
He said he had come this far thanks to the love and support from his wife and "my incredible and brave children and my family and friends".
"A huge thank you to everyone," Mr Pink said.