The farmer who refused to die: Grazier shares his extraordinary story of survival after he lost both legs in a freak outback accident
- Gavin Howie had both of his legs torn off in a freak accident with his lawn mower
- The turf farmer was more concerned with when he could return to his work
- He has steel rods inserted into his bones which act as legs and help him walk
A turf farmer who had both of his legs torn off in a freak outback accident was planning his return to work even as surgeons warned he may not survive.
Nine months ago, Northern Territory grazier Gavin Howie was mowing the lawn on his farm when he fell ‘awkwardly’ and his legs got caught under the ride-on machine.
His wife and two children were holidaying at the time and he was entirely alone at his rural property.
Mr Howie said he can’t remember what exactly happened next, but he knew he was lucky to be alive.
When he was freed from the machine, Mr Howie tried to stand up – hoping to find his phone to call for help – but his legs were only hanging on by a thread.
Instead, the father-of-two used his arms to drag himself back to his phone, which had fallen out of his pocket, and call his neighbour for help.
When medics arrived, they found drag marks spanning 15 metres long and were shocked at Mr Howie’s resolve to survive despite the extent of his injuries.
One of his legs had been severed at the thigh and the other was barely hanging on.
Mr Howie told 60 Minutes he clambered ‘so far away that only my legs were back that way… under the mower’.
Mr Howie (pictured ) is learning to walk again using his new, steel legs which were screwed into his bones
Despite the extensive injuries, he didn’t feel anything more than discomfort for about an hour and a half.
‘I think it was more uncomfortable, so I don’t know. I can remember trying to get up because I didn’t want to lay down anymore,’ he said.
Paramedics Aaron Brooks and Antoni Kwitkowski said they were certain they’d been called to a fatality when they saw the scene.
‘When we first got there we saw Gavin lying on his back and we thought this is a fatality straight up,’ Mr Kwitkowski said.
‘Got out and got closer and noticed that his chest was rising and falling so he was breathing. And then when he actually said ”g’day” then he was fully conscious.’
Mr Howie and his wife, Lauren (pictured together) discussed the traumatic experience but said they were remaining positive
Remarkably, Mr Howie’s primary concern – even on his way to hospital for treatment – was how soon he could return to his work on the farm.
Orthopaedic surgeon Associate Professor Munjed Al-Muderis performed four separate surgeries on Mr Howie in six months.
The final surgery required steel rods to be inserted into Mr Howie’s bones and cost him a total of $200,000.
Prof Al-Muderis wants to make the procedure more accessible for people in need, and said he often works pro bono to help his patients.
‘Trust me, I am very cheap. I do a lot of it out of pocket,’ he said.
Mr Howie was determined to return to work as soon as he could after the accident tore off his legs
The advanced technology in Mr Howie’s new legs will eventually become a part of his nervous system. He can already sense the ground beneath his feet and the feeling will continue to develop.
Mr Howie is slowly learning to walk again and has returned to the farm as much as he possibly can – but his wife still hasn’t given him the all clear to get back on the mower.
While the injury changed his life, the farmer said there is ‘no point in getting down about it’.
‘That’ll get you nowhere. You’ve just gotta make what you can in life and that’s what we’re doing now,’ he said.