At around 4.30 pm on 27 January 2017, Krishan Lal was returning from a breast cancer-related fundraiser in Newcastle when he collided head-on with an oncoming truck. What followed was the stuff of nightmares, interspersed by a series of serendipitous events. Krishan was flung off his motorbike and landed next to a guardrail on a high and remote mountain road. Port Macquarie, the nearest point of help, was over 100kms away. With no cell reception, Krishan’s only hope at that point was some form of miracle. And the “powers that be” somehow delivered!
A man on a BMW motorbike was riding along when he saw Krishan lying on the side of the road, surrounded by a few people who were only conversant with basic first-aid. The rider didn’t have any medical skills either, but he did possess something very useful – an emergency beacon, which they used to call for help. There had been a dangerous amount of blood lost by then, and although emergency services were on their way, Krishan was struggling to stay alive. As luck would have it, a guardian angel, in the form of orthopaedic surgeon Dr Max Leibenson, happened to be driving by. He helped pull Krishan from under the guardrail in the most medically-efficient manner, re-broke his femur bone (without any pain medication, mind you) and controlled the bleeding long enough for emergency services to arrive and airlift him to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle some 380kms away.
That last part wasn’t easy. The paramedics from the local hospital, who were convinced Krishan’s injuries were so bad his legs would have to be amputated, wanted to take him to the nearest hospital. Dr Max had to convince them to fly him to John Hunter (where he worked) for Krishan to be treated without amputation. High on ketamine, which puts users in a trance-like hallucinogenic state, Krishan spent the next 1.5 hours in the helicopter hallucinating about everything around him burning, and imagining the paramedics as people with horns, purple skin and carrot hair!
He recalls, “I looked out the window of the helicopter and everything was on fire, as if it was the apocalypse. I couldn’t feel anything and I was seeing weird things. I thought to myself, ‘I must have died’”.
It was nearly midnight by the time they reached the hospital. Krishan says a lot of what happened next is a blur. “In the emergency ward and OT, through x-ray scans and signing waivers, I kept telling the medical staff just one thing – whatever happens, don’t amputate my legs.”
I looked out the window of the helicopter and everything was on fire, as if it was the apocalypse. I couldn’t feel anything and I was seeing weird things. I thought to myself, ‘I must have died’.
After a 9-hour long surgery which required blood transfusion (he was given 1.5 litres of blood from Red Cross donors), Krishan woke up not knowing what the doctors had done with him: were his legs amputated? Thankfully, Leibenson’s roadside fix had prevented the need for amputation; however, the doctors weren’t able to salvage the remaining bones in his legs. As a result, Krishan’s bones in his right leg from the femur (thigh bone) all the way down to the tibia and fibula (ankle), as well as his left leg from the patella (knee) to the fibula (ankle) were all replaced – with titanium.
Krishan is the sort of person who believes in doing good deeds and making a difference. He regularly donates blood, plasma and bone marrow at Red Cross centres. Once, after recording a 98% stem cell match to a 15-year-old girl who was dying of leukaemia, he donated his bone marrow for a procedure that saved her life. Did some higher power intervene on his behalf when he was lying on the side of the road? Was there someone watching over him?
Karma is a tricky thing to speculate about. After his surgery, Krishan had to relearn how to stand and walk. But after two years of physiotherapy, Krishan now has a clean bill of health. In February 2019, he completed a 50-km hike with no problems. He hasn’t been on a motorbike since his accident, and is unlikely to do so in the future. “My family will kill me if I talk about getting on a motorbike again,” he laughs.
“My family will kill me if I talk about getting on a motorbike again,” he laughs.
Now, besides his usual donations, Krishan also wants to thank those who helped save his life – Dr Max, the doctors who operated on him and the paramedics, but also the countless unknown Red Cross donors who donated the blood that saved his life. As a way of thanking them and the Australian Red Cross, Krishan is organising a free Red Cross – Concert under the Stars charity event at Ettamogah Hotel in Kellyville on Saturday 25 May 2019. The family-friendly event will hopefully raise awareness for the kind of incredible work the Australian Red Cross does.
Roll up your sleeve: Donating blood
- The blood you donate in one sitting can potentially save three lives.
- Donating blood takes only about 10-15 minutes.
- Australia needs more than 25,000 donations every week.
- One in three Australians will need blood or blood products in their lifetime.
- Reaching out is very easy: go to your local Red Cross Centre and just ask what they need. They might need volunteers or donations for specific items.