IT WAS a fairly routine job on the farm – transfer cattle from one paddock to the other.
What wasn’t routine was the quadbike, conditions or terrain.
Tony Byers had just moved his family from northern Victoria down to Toora.
The job on the dairy farm was supposed to set up the family to achieve a life-long ambition – to be farmers.
That all changed for Tony and his family on December 9, 2010.
“I was on the boss’ quad bike, which had a 100lt spray tank attached that was about three-quarters full, to shift cattle from one paddock to another,” Tony said.
“I was going up the hill, and it felt like the bike hit a rut or a hole and the bike went over backwards – the liquid took over.
“I put my arm up to protect my head and fend off the bike.”
Miraculously, the bike didn’t crush him – it rolled down to the bottom of the hill.
Instead Tony’s shoulder had taken the full weight of the 300kg toppling bike.
Tony said that when he sat up, he was in a “heap of pain”.
Scrambling around in the long slippery grass, he eventually found his phone and called for help.
He had severely damaged his shoulder, dislocating his left shoulder joint.
Following the incident, Tony lost his job as he was unable to do the physical work the farm required – and the family lost the farm manager’s house.
Luckily, Tony’s wife Cindy had just managed to find a job and the family moved in to new accommodation with assistance from her boss.
In January 2013, Tony underwent the first surgery – arthroscopic surgery to ‘clean out the joint’. It didn’t work.
In December 2013, he had joint stabilisation surgery, where part of his hamstring tendon was transplanted into the shoulder.
On Christmas Eve he was back in hospital with a massive infection.
To counter the infection, he underwent surgery again and part of his collarbone was cut out in January – he now has serious nerve damage.
December 2014 was the first year Tony actually celebrated Christmas in four years, with his arm out of a sling.
In those four years he’s lost a house, job, dream ambition; he’s also had to undergo many inconveniences – travelling to specialists, hiring lawyers, and an ongoing requirement every 28 days that he get certified for his current job – driving a school bus.
Following the incident Tony has inadvertently become an advocate for stringent safety requirements for quad bikes.
“The first thing is to make roll bars compulsory, and there is some movement on that,” he said.
“There needs to be more training and competency certificates for motorbikes and tractors.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.
“The worst part about it all has been getting my head around the fact that I’m not able to do what I used to.
“We’re a very active family, but I can’t do anything – like kick to kick with my son.
“I should’ve said the bike’s not safe, it’s not safe, I’m not getting on – but that’s hindsight for you.”
Tony is hopeful his story will prompt others to think safety first – it’s a life saver.