Occupying a sick 2-year-old in the waiting room at the doctor’s surgery is challenging. Whatever you choose to do must be fairly quiet yet highly engaging. On this particular day, we did counting, looked at books and played with her dolly. Time was dragging and my patience was running out. Surely it was our turn next!

Shortly after 3 pm, the silence from within the surgery was interrupted by a loud siren. A police car or ambulance I presumed. We kept playing. Shortly after that, another two emergency vehicles flew past. My little girl listened intently and looked at me with curious eyes. “oooh,” I said, “a nee-naw-nee-naw.” She smiled and we kept playing. Finally it was our turn to be seen. She had been unwell and I’d taken the day off work to care for her. As the doctor examined her and made her giggle, we looked out the window to see several more emergency vehicles travelling through town at a high speed. With that amount of emergency vehicles on their way, we knew that there must have been a bad accident. With my prescription in hand, we left the surgery and headed to the chemist.

As I put my little girl into the car, I could hear the faint sound of the rescue helicopter. Wow, things must be bad. My phone signalled a Facebook message. It was a friend, who worked in a newsroom, asking if I had got home from work okay as there had been a fatal head-on collision near my workplace. On this particular day, I was off work because my little girl was unwell so I was happy to report back that I was indeed fine and not at work that day. Then I worried. I work at a school and it was home time for my students and I knew that there would be parents travelling on that main road to collect their children. I rang work to check that nobody we knew had been in the accident. Luckily, all children had been collected and accounted for. I was relieved.

We ducked into the chemist to get our script and I rang my mum to let her know how we went at the doctor. She listened carefully, but vaguely, as I described how many doses of eye drops she was to have each day. Toward the end of the phone call, I asked mum if she had heard about the accident and she fell silent. I asked if she’d heard me and still she was silent. Then she said ‘{Your brother} was in that accident.’

My eyes are welling up right now as I write these words.

In my 31 years, these have been the most emotional and heartbreaking words that I’d ever received. My legs went to jelly and my heart began to pound. I don’t think I said anything for quite a few seconds and neither did mum. I thought back to my friend’s message only half an hour earlier. She said it was a fatal accident.

Fatal.

I had no words, no ability to process and reason. My brother was involved in a fatal car accident. Eventually, I was able to ask if he was okay and she responded that she didn’t know. I could feel her pain and anxiety through the phone. She said she had known for roughly 20 minutes and in that time had contacted the local ambulance, police, SES and other services as well. But no-one was able to tell her anything. So she just sat and waited in her office at the hospital. She hadn’t told any of her colleagues. She just sat, and waited.

Eventually she said that she has made the decision to travel to the next town, which is where our major local hospital is. She said that she was going to leave now, go to the hospital and wait. Wait to see if it was my brother who was going to arrive by ambulance and go to the emergency room… or not. Or not? As a mother, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to wait at the emergency room and just hope to God that it would be my child coming out of that ambulance. She is strong beyond belief. 

At the crash site, his car lay on top of the other; a tangled web of metal and belongings and devastation. His foot was trapped under the pedals. Somehow, he managed to undo his boot and pull his crushed foot out. Releasing his seat belt, he flopped onto his stomach and crawled to the roadside with a broken hip and pelvis, a torn liver, severe whiplash and multiple other injuries. His injuries were life threatening and he went in and out of consciousness several times. Somehow, he was able to ask a passer-by to make a phone call on his behalf to my family, which was a miracle within itself as there is usually no phone service in that particular spot. His passenger walked free of the wreck relatively unharmed, but a woman and a three-year-old little girl were trapped in the vehicle underneath for quite some time; and their driver died at the scene.

It’s been 12 months now since the accident now and his recovery has been long and hard. Tomorrow we will know his fate in court. We were very fortunate that day, but another family wasn’t. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of that man and his family. Every day as I travel to school, I pass the crash site and it breaks my heart. Every. Single. Day. I cry almost every time. I am devastated.

In real, everyday ‘third person life,’ we read and hear about car accidents all the time and it is instinct to feel sympathy and sadness towards the victims and their families for their loss. But how often do we pause to think about the person at fault? They too, have a family who loves them so much; a baby waiting at home to see her ‘dad-da’ and parents and siblings, who would do anything to change it all if they could. We, too are the victims of these terrible accidents. I know this because I am that family. I share this grief too. It is our grief. It is devastating, and it will never go away.

For every single accident that occurs, there are so many more people affected than just those in the actual accident. To the family of the man who lost his life that day, I am truly and deeply sorry for your loss. Please know that I think about you all every single day and even though there is nothing that I could ever say or do to change what has happened, please know how much I care about you all. And to my family, who are right now preparing to say goodbye, please know that it is okay for us to grieve too and accept this loss. We may be saying goodbye for now, but we are truly fortunate because unlike the other family, we will one day get the chance to be able to say hello again.

Please drive safely everyone. Please.

 

*In telling this story I have not attempted to, nor wish to make reference to any legal or factual matters/accounts relating specifically to the details of the accident. All expressions are those of my own personal recount and recollection of events and emotions on that day. The photograph that you see is of me, walking to place flowers at the site, on the 12 month anniversary of the accident. 

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Tash Guthrie

I’m Tash and I’m a full time primary school teacher, a business owner, business coach and a busy mum. I live on a beautiful rural property on the Far North Coast of NSW Australia with my gorgeous hubby and baby girl, Amelia. I adore wine, cheese platters and parking my butt in front of a good renovation or property TV show. I am so incredibly passionate about women in business and have coached hundreds of women to build businesses from home that support their family, nurture their true self and create a flexible lifestyle, completely on their terms. You can visit me over at www.tashguthrie.com.au

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