Miracle at Minchinbury 

Mark with the MCH allied-health team and Hospital Director, ready to go home.

By Iain Steel

Coming home from a motorcycle ride to Oberon with friends, Mark decided to take a familiar and scenic twisty-road detour. In a split second, Mark’s life was turned upside down, a car turned into his path, his beautiful Indian FTR 1200 motorcycle was wrecked, and his fifty-two-year-old body was broken from head to toe. Although he has little memory of the events after the accident or his time in intensive care, he was subsequently told that he needed defibrillation on the way to the hospital in the helicopter due to his heart stopping.

The ambulance form confirms the details of the incident. “On 27th May 2023 Mr. Bondfield was found on the road after colliding with a vehicle at high speed. Mr. Bondfield was highly agitated”. There was a cardiac arrest recorded at 3:40pm whilst in the helicopter on the way to Westmead hospital, 170 kilometers away.

The Westmead hospital discharge report for the period 27th May to 2nd August details the injuries as: Cardiac arrest due to trauma, fracture of the radius and ulna in the left arm, left knee dislocation with a torn artery, multiple compression fractures of the pelvis, bleeding of the brain in multiple places, multiple skin trauma needing grafting, spinal injury from the pelvic fractures, lung injuries, renal failure, rib fractures, and a severe traumatic brain injury.

When Mark left intensive care some weeks later, his main memory was that “twenty-four hours a day I was uncomfortable, there was a lump in my left-hand side, it felt as if I was sleeping with a tennis ball in the bed, it was driving me mad, and I felt like I was trapped.” Also, he recalls being distressed by “having that thing down my throat” (the ‘thing’ was a ventilator tube that was assisting him to breath and stay alive).

On the 2nd of August Mark was transferred to Minchinbury Community Hospital, Mark wanted to thank the staff at Westmead and say goodbye but there was almost no one on the ward.  “As they wheeled me out to the door, the trauma surgeon and all his entourage were there all clapping and smiling, I was a bit choked up, then random staff were popping up and encouraging me and saying congratulations, well done.” It was then that Mark realized how invested hospital staff are in all the patients in their care, “word had got around the hospital that I wasn’t initially expected to make it through the night.” 

On arrival at Minchinbury Community Hospital for rehabilitation, Mark was unable to move without three people assisting and he needed a mechanical lifter to get into a special tilting shower chair. 

Mark out on a ride with his Indian FTR1200.

Despite these difficulties, Mark described his feelings as “calm and relaxed, and it has been like that ever since.” He kept his motivation up by focusing on “kicking lots of little goals, and they are adding up… I’m too busy looking forward.”  Of all the challenges, Mark felt that his biggest hurdle was his first attempt to stand up, “I feared my legs just collapsing.” The therapist reported that he was only able to stand up with a frame and three-staff for about 10 seconds.  

Mark’s wife, Anne-Maree, has been at the hospital every day and has watched as he has gone from his first difficult stand, to taking a few steps and then gaining the strength and confidence to walk independently with crutches. I asked her how she maintained her morale through this very difficult and slow recovery; “My family and everyone around me, the support has been amazing from the first day, and as time goes on, it was Mark and his positive outlook, drive and the professionals around him.” “Life has been put on hold…, it’s a different thinking on life now,” said Anne-Maree, coming to terms with her new reality.

Anne-Maree feels one of the biggest challenges of Mark returning home is cooking to his demanding standards, “he’s a great cook, my challenge now is being able to cater for him,” she laughed. “I know he is going to try everything to get back to being independent.” 

Anne-Maree has some advice for those facing a similar situation, “accept help”.

The first thing Mark will do when he gets home, after sharing a hug with his wife, is to put some music on. In the longer-term Mark’s goal is to drive, get back to the gym and get a dog. He will still need many months of further therapy to become fully independent, but with the support of his family and friends, the future looks much brighter.

Walking out of Minchinbury Community hospital 8 months later, Mark’s recovery has defied the odds. He still has months or years of rehabilitation to make a (near-to) full recovery, but given how extensive his injuries were, his story is one of determination, tears, laughter, and resilience that has been inspiring to his family, treating team and other patients at the hospital.