Originally written by PHOEBE STEWART
THE fact that Brad Pickford could still lose his leg after 12 months of surgeries, expensive medication and set backs has not dampened the confidence the 27 year-old has in his future.
Living at his parent’s home and relying on crutches to walk, he remains ambitious about expanding his own business in cattle artificial insemination that could one day see him exporting around the globe. He simply refuses to allow the fact that he endured one of the worst car accidents anyone has ever survived affect this dream. Last time Sydney and West Coast met in the Grand Final, Brad was lying in a coma in a Melbourne hospital. On September 20, 2005, his ute collided with a truck while travelling to work near Naroghid, the impact wiping the vehicle across the road and breaking his left leg, elbow, wrist and right ankle. He also injured his lungs and aorta. It was a tragic accident and even more so given the memory of severe head and arm injuries from being hit by a car as an 18 year-old footballer were still fresh in his mind. Luck on his side But it seems that Brad does have a little luck on his side. “I was told that with this kind of accident only five per cent of people live and 95 per cent of patients die. So to have that chance it’s great.” However the road following the first round of surgeries has not been smooth. He broke the rod in his leg the following January, and successive surgeries failed to properly repair the problem. He also contracted a golden staph infection in his leg. “I knew I had to have the surgeries to try and get my body back to normal .Ê.Ê. but it was very frustrating when they didn’t work. “I lost a lot of weight .Ê.Ê. and eventually I decided that I’d had enough and went back to Byaduk to try and recover.” For a break, he went with his brother to stay with a friend in Colorado, but soon after his leg completely “blew out”. “I was actually pushing puss out of my leg,” he said. Yet as it turned out Brad was seen by one of the best orthopaedic surgeons in the US, who was alarmed by the condition of the leg. “When they told me that what had been done to my leg was not right .Ê.Ê. well that was very frustrating to hear. They still didn’t know whether I would be able to keep the leg,” he said. Surgeon operated In February the surgeon operated to replace the old rod with an external rod running alongside the bone. “It took two operations to repair it, and the doctor actually broke a chisel trying to take the rod out of the bone, which had fused together.” He was also put on the new drug, Cubicin, to combat the staph. Four months of recovery followed and Brad, a budding pilot who received his flying licence only the day before the accident, used the time to brush up on his skills through DVD simulators. He was even back in the air during his last two weeks in America. Yet it was also a stressful time for Brad and his family, who supported him the entire way through. The operations cost the Pickfords about $100,000 alone and the Cubicin $600 a day. Brad said they were prepared to pay in order to give him the best chance to keep his leg, but the Cubicin took a toll on his body. “I was on it for seven weeks, as well as pain medication, and it was very strong. I lost a lot of weight again .Ê.Ê. and I could actually feel it eating away at the bone.” And after all that, an infection again took hold of the leg, undoing all of the work. “I now have to have leg fixation surgery (in Melbourne) next month .Ê.Ê. which will be a bit like having braces on your teeth to lengthen the bone over about six to nine months.” Remains hopeful There was also chance that he could still lose his leg, but he was hopeful that things would still go his way. “I haven’t quite gone 100 steps forward and 100 back. Maybe about 50 steps back. If it is still like this in three years, then I will have to make a decision. We’ll just see.” But no matter what the outcome, Brad will never let go of his dream of building a successful cattle artificial insemination business, with plans to develop an embryo transplant complex at his North Byaduk property already underway. He has also recently created a reproductive tract prototype that has the potential to teach students how to AI cattle all over the world. “It’s called the “Breeding Betsy”. I had been thinking about it for a while but never seemed to have the time but with this (accident) it sort of forced me to sit down and do it.”