A RIDERLESS horse discovered wandering the streets of Rand was an ominous sign something was wrong.
About 45 minutes later on that Wednesday afternoon in October residents found farm hand Joe Gardiner lying almost motionless on a road in the middle of town.
Mr Gardiner had been thrown head first off the uncooperative horse.
He felt no pain as he waited for help to arrive.
“I could just turn my head from left to right,” Mr Gardiner remembered.
“I couldn’t move my arms, legs or body.”
The grandfather is well-known, a volunteer with the Lockhart Show Society and familiar face at the gates during Hume League football finals.
For 11 weeks he has been bedridden at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney.
He underwent surgery on his neck.
Then, in what would be a mixed blessing, an MRI revealed a cancer in a kidney which doctors were able to successfully remove without chemotherapy because it was detected early.
The former Henty truck driver has been termed an incomplete spinal injury quadriplegic and there are fears he will remain seriously disabled for the rest of his life.
But speaking from his hospital room yesterday as his partner Louise Eldridge pressed the phone to his ear, Mr Gardiner was talking up the best-case scenario.
He said he could now stand up with his walking frame and, although he still can’t feed himself, he’s making progress.
“Now I can get my hands and arms moving around a bit,” he said.
“They’re not sure how much I’ll get back and how good it will be, but I take it day by day.”
After the accident his partner of five years left her job at the Urana shire office to be with him and the months in hospital are taking a financial toll.
But the community has refused to let them shoulder it all, setting up a foundation in Mr Gardiner’s name and organising a major New Year’s Eve fund-raiser.
“I knew I had a few friends there but the way they’re going it’s unbelievable,” he said.
Mr Gardiner will remain in hospital until at least March.