Impact of road trauma


A motorcyclist, who will spend his Christmas undergoing rehabilitation at Epworth Hawthorn, has urged everyone to take care on the roads over the holidays.

I have been riding this road for years and years. I ride my motorcycle to and from work most days and it was like every other day, but this was a little bit different. It only took a microsecond.

58 year-old Newborough man Joseph Farrugia was doing everything right; he was riding to the speed limit, he was wearing a motorcycle helmet and full safety gear, including protective pants, jacket, safety boots and gloves.

While riding home from work on 7 November this year, his life changed in an instant as he exited the Princes Freeway at Marretts Road at Morwell, near his home.

Mr Farrugia says he made it three quarters the way around the sweeping bend on the exit ramp.

“I was looking to the right to check for traffic to make sure there weren’t any cars coming along, which was clear,” Mr Farrugia said.

“When I looked up there was a car stopped in front of me at the give way sign, and I went straight into the back of it. A split second was all it took.”

“I have been riding this road for years and years. I ride my motorcycle to and from work most days and it was like every other day, but this was a little bit different. It only took a microsecond.”

Mr Farrugia landed on the road, breaking his legs and left wrist. He was flown by air ambulance to Royal Melbourne Hospital and admitted to Epworth Rehabilitation at Hawthorn a week later.

He will spend Christmas in Epworth Hawthorn and is expected to start learning to walk again in January, after doctors give him the all clear to begin weight bearing exercise.

Epworth Rehabilitation physiotherapist Georgia Karakaltsas said Mr Farrugia has already made good progress.

“When he arrived at Epworth Hawthorn he needed four staff to help him transfer from his bed to his wheelchair,” Ms Karakaltsas said.

“He can now do that independently.”

Once he receives medical clearance, work will begin to prepare Mr Farrugia’s return home.

“Joe lives by himself in a double story house with lots of stairs so we have to get him independently walking to ensure he is safe at home, before he can be discharged from hospital,” Ms Karakaltsas said.

“It’s incredibly rewarding. My favourite part of the job is when patients are allowed to start weight bearing and walking again. It is incredible because you are helping someone get their livelihood back to go home and be with their family.”

Jo Goodridge, Executive General Manager, Epworth Rehabilitation and Mental Health, said sadly Joe is one of hundreds of people who end up undergoing rehabilitation at Epworth after road accidents each year.

“Our team sees the impact of the hidden road toll – people who survive road trauma but are left with long lasting and sometimes life-long injuries that not only impact them but their families as well,” Ms Goodridge said.

“Epworth provides specialist rehabilitation care for people who have sustained acquired brain injuries and traumatic orthopaedic injuries because of a serious accident, including amputation, spinal fractures, complex wounds and burns. A multidisciplinary treating team comprising doctors, nurses and allied health clinicians provide physical, functional, cognitive and emotional therapy – for both patients and their families or carers – throughout their rehabilitation journey.

Ms Karakaltsas said her work as a rehabilitation physiotherapist has changed the way she drives.

“Every day I see the impact road trauma has on people. It has made me a safer driver.”

Mr Farrugia urges everyone to take care on the roads over Christmas.

“Importantly, motorcyclists should wear all of their safety gear all of the time,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t want to wear all the safety gear because it is so hot. When you stop, you can always take it off.”

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