One of the most humbling parts of my job is when people are generous with their time and energy, but this ramps up immeasurably when they do this while going through horrendous experiences.
Us journalists ask a lot of people. As part of our award-winning ‘Impact’ series on the hidden road toll, for RACV’s Royal Auto magazine and website, it was essential that the team (myself, photographer Meredith O’Shea and videographer Miguel Rios) covered the human toll from all angles, which had to include the families.
Imagine. You find out – usually by a phone call from a police officer – that your son/father/husband/daughter has been in a serious car crash and is now in hospital, barely alive. You arrive, stressed and so scared, only to find a media crew standing in the trauma ward, filming you.
We were well aware of how difficult this job would be, and how bloody much we were asking of people, but it was for a greater good. I’ve spent my career trying NOT to be an ambulance chaser but for this job, Meredith, Miguel and I knew we had to dive right into the heart of the storm. We wanted the 1.6 million readership of Royal Auto, and I don’t know how many online readers, to get a sense of how shocking this situation is, how much you do not want to put your family through that by drink or drug-driving, driving angry, checking your phone while driving, veering fast and recklessly through traffic and all the other ways people have accidents that could be avoided.
I met Alec Caldwell while his son, Cam, was in a deep coma at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and we chatted outside the hospital’s front door. We’ve talked a lot on the phone since, and then recently I got to go and visit him and actually meet Cam for the first time, at an Alfred Hospital rehab facility in Caulfield.
I can’t tell you how amazing Alec has been through this traumatic year. He has never wavered in his gentle patience and accommodating acceptance of what we were trying to achieve. He’s been so honest about the pain and the difficulties he’s faced and we’ve had some incredible conversations. I have total respect for how he has carried himself through it all. (Also, a shout out to Tanya Disher, Alec ‘s daughter, who spoke to me so bravely and honestly for the story.)
The great news is that Cam woke up. Cam is probably not going to get back to where he was, pre-accident, but he’s here, which is a miracle given his dire condition when he was choppered by the air ambulance into the Alfred. It looked all over to anybody but the family and a few dedicated medical professionals.
The latest story on Alec and Cam, from the July 2017 Royal Auto, is here (half way down the page, after our initial main Impact feature).