Graham Bilbe may never forget his frightening but miraculous escape that was made possible with the help of the neighbor’s dog.
About six months ago, on April 3, Graham Bilbe, an 82-year-old farmer, was driving his industrial-sized ride-on mower on his farm at Comboyne, west of Port Macquarie, New South Wales. Suddenly, the drive belt snapped and left the mower out of control without brakes or steering.
Earlier on, flooding rain had severely damaged the area, which accelerated the mower to take off down the hill at high speed. Bilbe said he felt desperate as the ride-on kept rolling over and over and over for around 100 yards, down four terraces, and into the bush before landing on him, almost cutting off his right leg.
He told ABC News: “I was knocked out early in the piece.”
“I don’t remember any of the rolling, but it landed on top of me every time, and I lost the best part of my leg and my right foot,” he added.
Regardless of his severe injuries, Bilbe used all his remaining strength to stay alive. First, he had to tie his leg and foot up with a couple of exposed ligaments to the belt on his trousers, which left his hands free to crawl up the hill.
Bleeding heavily, it took Bilbe about an hour and a half to drag his severely injured body back up the hill to the road, which made him believe that without the help of God, he couldn’t have made it: “When I woke up, I thought, ‘Oh Jesus!,” he said.
Bilbe attempted to call out for assistance. Tim Connell, Bilbe’s neighbor, was mowing his lawn at the time. However, the mower’s noise was too loud for Connell to hear Bilbe’s desperate calls for help.
But it proved to be a different matter for Tim Connell’s dog; he heard Bilbe’s plea for help.
Zollie barked incessantly to signal something was amiss with his neighbor. Noticing the dog’s behavior, Tim and Georgia Connell followed Zollie to where Bilbe lay.
Bilbe said: “He came to the gate and his master and mistress came over too … and they got the fright of their life when they saw my leg.” Then, he added, “I had no energy left at all … I had lost nearly all my blood.”
Due to poor phone service in the Comboyne region, Connell had difficulty calling for medical aid. Fortunately, he eventually got through, and people came from all around to assist.
Recalling what had happened, Bilbe couldn’t imagine how he would have survived without the assistance of his neighbor, particularly their wonderful dog.
Bilbe said: “I couldn’t get to the house, and I didn’t have my mobile with me, so that I would have been in trouble, really big trouble.” He added: “I yelled and yelled and yelled and his dog heard me; Zollie, a lovely dog, the wonder dog.”
Bilbe had to undergo a series of surgeries in Newcastle to clean and reconstruct part of his right leg, including rebuilding his calf with muscle from his chest and skin from his thigh.
“I had six operations in the space of a week and a half,” he said.
It was a tough road, but finally, Bilbe’s efforts paid off. The leg improved; the nerves were healing, and he was gaining back feeling in the leg. However, he was longing to return to doing some light work on the farm, mainly supervising.
There were further operations needed, and he required physiotherapy. However, Bilbe gained more strength with visits from his family and his partner Virginia Kelk. They encouraged him every day and supported him by taking care of the farm during Bilbe’s absence.
“Don’t worry about it; everything is under control.” Virginia said.
Virginia and Bilbe have demonstrated incredible strength.
Virginia said: “It’s been surreal because things happen you have no control over, and you watch someone with an immense determination just taking every chance they are given and running with it.”
Witnessing how desperate the situation of Bilbe had been, Connell was amazed at the recovery progress that Bilbe had gone through.
“He has done remarkably well and is up and about and working on his farm again, which is extraordinary, a testament to modern medicine.”