Won't happen to me too - but then it did

AMANDA Gatty doesn’t remember much about the collision that almost claimed her life.

Just glimpses of a huge gaping wound on her leg, screaming for someone, anyone, to just “get it off”, and a rescue worker telling her to relax.

But the reality of her head-on collision with a B-double truck was far worse, of course.

She also had shattered bones in both arms and legs, major internal damage to her lungs, liver and spleen, and her intestines had been pushed up into her chest.

After 15 hours of surgery, Amanda was placed on life support in the intensive care unit at The Alfred hospital in Melbourne where she remained for a total of eight days.

She spent a further two weeks in a ward and then two months in rehabilitation at Epworth.

Four years later and she is still undergoing surgery for her injuries.

But up until that moment, when a truck came screaming over the top of her head, Amanda thought she was invincible.

Just two years earlier, she lost her older brother in a car accident not far from their Cobram home.

This, according to the then 18-year-old who had had her licence only for a few short months, meant that she had a free pass from taking it safe on the roads.

“I was a complete idiot,” she said.

“I was out cutting laps and trying to do burnouts in my little Mitsubishi Lancer and being a complete hoon.

“And because I had a stock standard car, police would never look at me.

“I was just so naive to think we’ve already had one person in our family die in a car accident, it won’t happen again, I’ll get away with anything.”

Amanda, now 22, was one of four key speakers at the first Cool Heads program held in Wodonga this week.

She volunteered her time to the educational program for young drivers in the hope that others may learn from her mistakes.

“I just count myself lucky and this is why I do like the Cool Heads program,” Amanda said.

“I’ve spoken at it three times in Shepparton and I jumped at the chance to do it up here because if I can just save one person, I feel like I’m making a difference.

“I figure I’ve been given another chance, so I’m going to take it and run with it.”

Amanda said the accident, on September 7, 2006, occurred after she had had a bad day at work.

She was driving nowhere in particular on a truck bypass just south of Shepparton and received a call from her housemate.

Amanda recalls throwing the phone across the car and turning around a bend.

The next thing she can remember clearly is waking up in hospital with her arms and legs in traction, and her hair shaved off.

Authorities believe Amanda may have become distracted by something in her car, or was

dazzled by lights, to have swerved into the path of the oncoming truck.

The accident, about 6.30pm, occurred on a long, sweeping bend.

It took emergency workers about half an hour to cut Amanda from the wreck, with the truck shearing the roof off the vehicle as it hurled over the top.

“When the search and rescue guys got there they thought they would just have to get a dead body out of the car,” she said.

“Then when they got out of the car they could hear me screaming, which is a bit in your face when you’ve got to hear that from somebody who’s just saved your life.”

It came after Amanda lost her 24-year-old brother Daniel Black two years before in an accident at Katandra West.

A truck carrying dead cattle drove through a stop sign and slammed into the vehicle he was driving, killing him instantly.

Amanda and her mum Janice actually came across the accident after they had gone looking for him when he hadn’t returned.

“My mum got out screaming and running and going, ‘That’s my car, that’s my son’ and I just sort of sat in the car and burst into tears,” she said.

“It’s just something that you never want to go through ever again,” she said.

Today, Amanda has two swallows tattooed on her chest symbolising the journey she has travelled since her accident.

The swallow tattoo was used by sailors to show how far they have travelled by sea and as a symbol of love, care and affection with the person always returning home to their family and friends.

But Amanda says she is still not half the person she used to be before the accident both mentally and physically.

“I had a big bump on the head and I used to think I was pretty intelligent, but now I make

simple mistakes,” she said.

“I tend to just trail off, forgetting things and if I don’t write a list or write down what you just said, I’ll forget about it.

“I used to have horses that my brother and I used to show, but we had to sell them because I couldn’t ride them any more.

“I’ve put on 25 kilograms because I can’t exercise, and it’s just little things like that, and I’m just never going to be the same person I was before I had the accident.”

But if there’s one thing Amanda can take away from her experience, it’s that she may have saved other young drivers from having to suffer the same fate.

“I just want them to give it a thought and realise that you’re not only ruining your own life, but there’s consequences around you.

“I hope they look at me and see that if you’re injured, or you injure somebody else, you have to live with that for the rest of your life.

“Because by God, I’m paying the consequences for it now.”

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