A broken back and a lion’s heart
NOT even a broken back could stop Thomas Shannon from saving his mum.
The pair were driving home from a movie on January 27 last year, after a freak storm had passed through their town of Windellama in the Southern Tablelands.
Thomas, 21, then a learner driver, was at the wheel when they suddenly confronted flooding water only a couple of kilometres from their home.
“We were going over the top of a hill, there was a fair amount of water running over the road that I couldn’t see coming up,” he said.
“I hit that and we were thrown off the left side of the road. I tried to steer the car between a tree and fence post. Once it’s hit the fence post, the car rolled. I remember seeing the ground outside the driver’s side window.
“When I came to in the car I noticed the windscreen was gone. I’d lost my glasses in the crash so everything was pretty blurry.”
The car had rolled before landing back on its wheels in a muddy paddock.
Years of volunteering in the Windellama Rural Fire Service kicked in and he went into first-responder mode, adrenaline masking his own serious injuries.
The crushed-in roof separating them meant he couldn’t immediately see his mum.
“I ducked down to look at mum and could see the roof was on her head,” he said. “I called out to her but she didn’t answer straight away. After a while I heard noises coming from her.”
Smelling what he thought was petrol and melting plastic, Thomas realised getting his mum out of the car was a matter of urgency. But Mrs Shannon was stuck.
“My neck was pinned between the roof of the car and the seat,” Mrs Shannon said. “I came to because Thomas was calling me.
“He got out of the car, came to my side and managed to get the door open.
“I had injuries to my knee and my right foot and a lot of facial injuries. I broke 10 teeth. There was a large cut to the top of my head so I was covered in blood. I also suffered a lot of nerve damage.”
The remote location of the accident meant there was no phone reception so Thomas hailed a passing car and had one of the occupants stay with his mum while he went home to get his dad, Brendan, for help.
It wasn’t until his mum was being cared for by paramedics that Thomas realised he wasn’t in great shape.
“That’s when it started to feel like I’d been kicked in the back,” Thomas said. “I had to do what I had to do.”
The pain Thomas was experiencing was from a fractured T11 vertebrae.
Thomas has been nominated for a Pride of Australia Award. His grandmother, Margaret Shannon, nominated him.
Thomas Shannon and his mum Linda and, below, the wrecked car from which Thomas rescued her.