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Dave Short lay broken on the side of Cameron's Line, wishing he could turn the clock back one minute.

At that point he would have been close to fulfilling one of his dreams-not nursing more than 12 broken bones and unable to move.

That dream was the launch of his Handypiece shearing device into the national and global market.

Dave had invented and manufactured the handpieces and was delivering 30 of them from Feilding to Palmerston North on August 1 - the eve of his new business alliance as a supplier to Tru-Test Supershear.

But one handpiece had fallen off his truck.

Dave (45) pulled over; ducked across the road and recovered the piece, inspecting the damage.

His last panicked thought as he heard the screech of tyres from an oncoming car was: “Hell, this is going to hurt."

It collected him at 70km/h. His wild leap in the air threw him on to its bonnet and windscreen and from there to the gravely roadside.

The bent handpiece was now the least of his worries.

With an off-duty doctor and nurse among the first on the scene, Dave - who was conscious throughout- had the clothes cut from his body, limbs realigned while dealing with a gnawing fear that he was paralysed.

"I honestly felt like I was in a Clint Eastwood movie,” he says.

Police told Dave that his last-minute leap possibly saved his life.

When the nurse at the scene phoned his wife Jacky, she was told Dave had been in a car accident and broken his ankle.

She and the couple's three children, Jake (15), Ashleigh (12) and Tom (10), passed the accident scene on their way to Palmerston North Hospital and had the dawning realisation that the situation was serious.

Jacky's biggest fear was that her husband had suffered brain injuries.

"I knew I could cope with wheelchairs, but I wanted him to still be him."

She then felt overwhelming responsibility for the whole family as Dave was placed in an induced coma for four days while his injuries were assessed and he was stabilised.

Upon waking, he stilled the family's fears that he wouldn’t still be Dave by giving his father instructions on feeding the stock. But the list of injuries was daunting.

Tendons were ripped from his left thumb, his upper left arm was broken, Dave's cheekbone, eye-socket, leg, neck and skull were all fractured, and his right ankle was rendered useless by a compound fracture.

Five weeks of hospitalisation followed, but support flooded in from day one.

Friends and family took over the daily stock work on the couple’s 60-hectare sheep and beef farm.

Townsfolk expressed their desire to help in a practical way by delivering an abundance of food, while grandparents, schools and friends provided much-needed support for the children.

''I honestly felt we had become a community project,'' says Jacky who had taken leave from her job as electoral agent for MP Simon Power and the volunteer community organisations she is heavily involved in.

The number of visitors to the hospital resulted in an orderly asking if Dave was famous.

“Famous in Feilding" his wife replied.

However it was the couple's determination for "business as usual" with Handypiece that provided the greatest challenge.

Winner of an innovation award in 2006, the Handypiece is the first portable, low­voltage mechanical handpiece of its type to be designed and proven in a work situation. The alliance with Tru-Test marked the beginning of the next phase in supplying it beyond local markets.

With contracts signed to supply Handypiece to Tru-Test as demand dictated, Dave says the support of the company was crucial.

"They even supplied workers from their gate-making factory in Bunnythorpe to get us through the first couple of weeks after the accident,” he says.

Extra staff were employed for the manufacturing workshop and Jacky began relaying each day's orders and enquiries from home to hospital, holding Dave's mobile phone to his ear as he co-ordinated suppliers and ordered parts.

Dave says he was fortunate his 70-year-old father had watched the business grow and was able to step in.

Tru-Test Supershear development manager Matt Langtry says news of the accident was a shock.

“It was gut-wrenching with it happening so close to the launch. We felt for Dave and Jacky."

He says the production/marketing alliance came about after True-Test recognised the uniqueness of Dave's product and saw how they could promote it to a larger market nationally and globally.

"There has already been considerable interest from markets in the UK and Australia,” he says.

Matt says Tru-Test staff and management admired the couple’s determination to carry on and are thrilled that production is back on schedule.

"Dave is a bit of a rubber band in more ways than one,” he says.

After a short detour to the woolshed on his way home from hospital “to tell my mates they were silly buggers and I would have got the shearers in", Dave is now recuperating at home.

He has months of specialised physiotherapy ahead of him and battles headaches and fatigue daily.

The long-term prognosis for his lower right leg is uncertain, but Dave is philosophical about the possibility of losing it.

"I'll just invent something to get me out and about," he says.

For 20 years Dave built replica Lamborghinis for the export market, so this is no idle boast.

One unanticipated outcome tor the family was the financial cost they now bear.

"Being self-employed, having taken on debt to get the business going and pouring all earnings back into the business, once calculations were done for insurance and ACC payments, we found ourselves disadvantaged” says Dave.

He advises anyone starting a business to look at ways of collecting a regular wage or to take out an insurance or ACC policy that guarantees a definite amount for living expenses.

"The premiums would be worth it, for peace of mind," he says.

Jacky is quick to add that ACC have dealt with them compassionately and provided child-care and house-keeping support which enabled her to help with Dave's care in hospital and, more recently, for her to return to work.

Of course the cost of major road accidents stretches beyond support during recuperation and the price of emergency and medical care.

Dave agrees that a social cost is paid in the loss of quality of life and productivity.

"There are so many effects on the family beyond the financial. Loss of mobility, the emotional effects on children, business worries and the 'unpaid' care-giving role of family members."

And he doesn't even know where to start paying back his mates that stepped in to run the farm.

"I also recommend having a very>' capable wife who can organise everything when you are out of action”.

He misses being involved in sport with his children, having full mobility, being out on the farm, in his workshop and living without pain.

As an example of some of the life-changing decisions he has made his super-quad racing bike is about to be sold.

An easy decision, he says, despite past recreational activities that include racing his Lamborghini in the Targa of New Zealand rally and spending the past few years tearing up and down hills on his super-quad, hiding injuries from his wife.

"I suspect if I had injured myself through racing I would have been lucky to receive one visit to hospital in five weeks instead of two a day from Jacky”

Dave has agreed to a drop in speed in his daily life from 99km/hour each day to 85km/ hour in recognition that it is time to slow down a bit.

"I could not put my family through this again, so for the foreseeable future I am playing it safe."

Shades of the old Dave emerge, however, as he adds: "That's a fairly safe quote really that shouldn't come back to bite me."

He is much more thankful about life now that he knows how easily and quickly it can be taken away.

"At the end of the day, my business is alive and so am I."

 

Source: Farmers Weekly Country-Wide