Everything changed for Michael Drury the day an elderly driver veered onto the wrong side of the road, straight into the path of his Harley Davidson.
The 36-year-old Berkeley man suffered crippling injuries from the crash at Kembla Grange on March 6 – including a fractured skull and two broken legs – but the worst thing was not being able to hear the voices of his two small children.
“I was left completely deaf in both ears,” he said, “Every time I woke up – on the side of the road, in the helicopter, in the hospital – that’s what hit me, that I couldn’t hear, so I didn’t know what was going on.
“And then, when my kids came to visit in hospital and I couldn’t hear their voices, that was one of the hardest things. I thought I’d never hear them again.”
Mr Drury spent six long months in hospital, firstly in intensive care fighting for life, and later going through extensive rehabilitation. The loss of his hearing constantly weighed on his mind, but then came some hope.
“I’d never thought about cochlear implants but I didn’t hesitate,” he said.
“I had my right ear done in July and four weeks later it was switched on and while I was told it would take some time to hear properly, I could hear straight away.
“On the way home my phone rang, I heard it and answered it and was able to have a conversation. And then I got my wish – I could hear my kids’ voices again.”
Mr Drury’s parents Alan and Jackie said it was a turning point for their son, and their grandchildren Pyper, 3, and Rhys, 7.
“Michael lost so much that day, and his children tried so hard to keep a brave face during his time in hospital,” his mother said. “Getting his hearing back has given him his confidence back, and is helping him get him life back to normal.”
Mr Drury will be implanted with a cochlear device in his left ear in February, and will continue to undergo regular sessions with his audiologist from Mac Hearing, Phillippa Hunt.
“When the device was first activated, Michael’s transformation from silent and brooding to talkative and buoyant was immediate and heart-warming,” she said.
“He regained control of his life in one fell swoop. Michael is the ultimate example of the transformative power of cochlear implants.”
His surgeon, Dr Simon Greenberg, said each year up to 5000 Australians suffered sudden hearing loss – many from trauma or head injury.
“It’s gratifying to be able to tell a patient who has come to me in despair at losing their hearing, that in fact there is a solution,” he said.
Mr Drury hopes one day to go back to work, but for now plans to spend as much time with his kids and his girlfriend Lyndall as possible.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without my girlfriend who’s been by my side the whole time, my parents and my kids.”
He forgives the 84-year-old driver, who pleaded guilty to dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm over the accident and in September was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond.