A brave farmer who almost took her own life after she lost both her arms in a horrific accident says she wouldn’t want her life to have gone any differently.
Gayle Shann was just 27 when her right arm was torn off at her rural property in Cantaur Park near Moranbah in central Queensland on Aug 9, 2002.
The fearless rodeo rider’s left arm was also crushed when her glove became caught on the shaft of a digger, pulling her into a hole in the ground and spinning her around with the machine’s drill.
For the past two decades Mrs Shann’s devoted husband Mac has been her arms, helping her eat, dress, and even put on her make-up.
Although it can be tough at times, she continues to play an active role in running their 28,000-acre cattle and horse breeding station – even driving a tractor with her feet.
The loving and resilient couple first captured the hearts of the nation back in 2003 when ABC’s Australian Story featured the husband and wife for a documentary.
The loving and resilient couple (Gayle and Mac Shann, pictured)) first captured the hearts of the nation back in 2003 when ABC’s Australian Story featured the husband and wife for a documentary
As the TV show celebrates 25 years, the melancholy episode about their struggles and enduring romance was voted the most popular ever.
At that time Mrs Shann was still coming to terms with her body and how she would adapt to her new life, but now she’s made peace with the past and considers herself ‘lucky’.
‘Twenty years later I would never have imagined I could be as happy as I am now,’ she told the program when it revisited the couple once again on Monday night.
‘I’ve got used to the way my body is now. I’ve got used to it. I can’t control it.
‘It’s me. It’s my story. My story is written on my body in scars and missing limbs.’
The pair built a life together they ‘absolutely love’ and at the moment things are as good as they have ever been with ‘good rain,’ green grass and horse and cattle markets thriving.
‘Mac and I have been married for 22 years now and we… Yeah, we wouldn’t change a thing,’ Mrs Shann said.
’20 years later I would never have imagined I could be as happy as I am now,’ Mrs Shann (pictured in hospital after the accident) said.
For the past two decades Mrs Shann’s devoted husband Mac (pictured) has been primary career, helping her eat, dress and put on her make-up
Mr Shann, reflecting on the show’s popularity joked that ‘the Australian public always likes a good sad love story’.
‘I’ve heard that I’m the perfect husband a few times even from random people that have never met you before. It’s always been quite amusing over the years,’ he said.
‘Our relationship is obviously quite different to others. If Gayle and I have an argument or a bit of a blue about something… in our situation I’ve then got to go and brush her teeth and take her make-up off.
‘There is no cooling off period that husbands and wives might have.’
But while the couple have never let the accident stop them from living their lives, about a decade ago they made the decision not to have children.
‘We both came to the understanding it would have been very difficult to have children,’ Mrs Shann said.
‘It wouldn’t have been impossible but I do feel that I would have become very frustrated having to rely on other people.
‘It’s always going to be a hole in our lives but we have so many nieces and nephews on each side of the family and they are the most amazing young humans and we are so proud of them and we hope we can stay close to them as they grow old.’
Mr Shann (pictured with Gayle), reflecting on the documentary’s popularity joked that ‘the Australian public always likes a good sad love story’.
After the accident the couple (pictured) both came to the sad understanding it would have been very difficult to car for children
But she said raising animals on the farm has helped to ‘fill the void’.
‘That’s the highlight of our lives, driving down the paddock to check the stud cows and write down the new babies – crossing this horse with that mayor, this bull with that cow – that has filled the void for us.’
On the day that changed the couple’s lives forever, Mrs Shann was renewing a garden fence and was using a post hole digger to drill into the ground.
Her glove got caught in a release pin, which pulled her into the hole.
‘The auger [drill] was a long way in the ground and there was only a small gap that was left that I spun around in,’ she said.
‘I spun around the shaft seven or eight times in one second. My right arm was torn off straight away and the left was also tangled in a little bit.’
Mrs Shann (pictured with Mac and her relatives after the accident) was just 27 when her right arm was torn off at her rural property in Cantaur Park near Moranbah in central Queensland on Aug 9, 2002
The fearless rodeo rider’s left arm was also crushed when her glove became caught on the shaft of a digger, pulling her into a hole in the ground and spinning her around with the machine’s drill
Mrs Shann was airlifted to Townsville where she spent three weeks in hospital, before being flown to Sydney for more than two months of treatment.
Mr Shann said he and family friends delayed telling her that her other arm was paralyzed for fear that she may not have wanted to keep living.
‘It all became 10 times worse when we knew that that arm didn’t work. At one point, I definitely did think, would I be better off dead?’ she recalled.
She received ground-breaking nerve graft surgery which meant her left arm – which looked completely dead post surgery – was able to regenerate giving her muscle and life back in the limb.
The arm does not have much functional use and she has even considered getting it removed.
‘I would look even more disfigured,’ Mrs Shann said.
‘It would make life easier with no sling and no drag on my neck but I just haven’t made that decision yet.’
Since the accident Mr Shann has acted as her hands, helping to brush her hair, clean her teeth, shower, get dressed and eat her meals every day.
He even does her makeup.
The couple’s Australian Story episode in 2003 was the show’s most popular of all time. Pictured: An iconic scene were Mr Shann put on Mrs Shann’s makeup
Although it can be tough at times, Mrs Shann (pictured on Australian Story) continues to play an active role in running their 28,000-acre cattle and horse breeding station – even driving a tractor with her feet
Mr Shann still acts as her primary career and still does her makeup – and he’s gotten ‘cocky’ about it, Mr Shann joked
‘He was pretty good at it right from the start really, much better than I thought he would be,’ she said.
‘He’s now almost a bit cocky about it – he thinks he knows best and when I’m deciding what to go with he’ll have his own opinion.’
Mrs Shann said she thought the couple’s story struck such a chord with so many viewers because theirs was a rare story of true love.
‘I think it’s a combination of being a love story that’s pulled at the heart strings of people and, you know, Mac was the one that put his hand up to take on the caring role which meant that we could stay living where we are,’ she told Daily Mail Australia in 2015.
‘I think people were attracted to the dedication that Mac showed to me.’
Although she relies on Mr Shann for a lot of her day-to-day activities, Mrs Shann has regained a lot of independence in the 20 years since the accident.
She does a lot of the book work for their businesses using a computer with an extra-large keyboard and mouse on the floor.
Mrs Shann said she thought the couple’s story struck such a chord with so many viewers because theirs was a rare story of true love
‘I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have a husband like Mac because not many men would do what he does,’ Ms Shann said
Friends also gave her a modified four-wheel motorbike so she can muster horses, and there are low handles so she can do work in the couple’s cattle yard.
The couple still go to campdrafts every year, where they enter their horses in the unique Australian sport which sees horsemen usher a single cow from a group of cattle.
The sport is important to both of them, and is how the pair met and started dating in 1997.
‘I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have a husband like Mac because not many men would do what he does,’ she said.
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