CHRIS Kelly woke up just 15 minutes before his life support was to be switched off.
That was nearly eight years ago.
The 29-year-old Tamworth man has continued to defy the odds ever since a horrific car accident left him with 17 fractures in five vertebrae of his back in May 2010.
Mr Kelly was travelling between Tamworth and Coonabarabran, where he was living at the time, when the car he was a passenger in collided with a horse that had darted onto the Goran Lake Road at Spring Ridge.
It was about 7pm at night and the black mare had bolted onto the 100km/h-zoned road from nowhere.
No one could have seen it happening.
The horse landed on the roof of the car, causing it to crush and collapse over Mr Kelly.
“I still remember it,” Mr Kelly said.
It restricted me to some extent, but it didn’t hold me back.Survivor Chris Kelly
“I suffered 17 fractures in five vertebrae. I’ve got a broken radius in my wrist, as well as three broken ribs.”
Mr Kelly fell unconscious and was taken by ambulance to Tamworth hospital.
“I was on life support in Tamworth for a day or so and then they organised for me to go to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle,” he said.
But Mr Kelly was lucky to even get there.
Doctors told those close to him he probably wouldn’t make it.
The decision was made to turn his life support off at 7.15am if he showed no signs of improvement.
“I came to 15 minutes before that,” Mr Kelly said.
From there, Mr Kelly has undergone two spinal surgeries.
“They had to open up my spine and fuse my spine,” he recalls.
“I’ve got pins and rods all the way up my back.
“It didn’t fuse, so they had to re-open me in November that year, re-fuse it, took bone fragment of my hip and put it in my neck for it to stand up.
“I had to be on a walking frame at hospital and then a walking stick for a few months – and I wasn’t even 30 at the time.
“It’s a big eye-opener.
“It hasn’t stopped me. It restricted me to some extent, but it didn’t hold me back.”
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Mr Kelly was back at work in December that same year.
He’s since gone on to obtain his truck licence and become a head chef in Tamworth, and now works as a cook in local nursing homes.
Mr Kelly is calling on drivers and their passengers to be aware of livestock, especially on country roads.
“When you’re going through the country, keep an eye out for everything, including livestock,” he said.
“You wouldn’t think a horse would run out because it should be in a paddock.
“You just wouldn’t think this would happen.”
Mr Kelly is sharing his story as part of Fairfax Media’s Survive The Drive road safety campaign.