The West

Self-pity not an option for brave Bali survivor
David Fyfe is learning to surf. Picture: Ian Munro, The West Australian

David Fyfe didn't cry when the nurses told him they had amputated his right leg.

He didn't dwell on the wounds left by the shrapnel that had ripped through him, or the jagged pieces still lodged in his flesh.

He denied self-pity when it came knocking after the doctors at Royal Perth Hospital told him he had burns to more than 50 per cent of his body and had received extensive skin grafts.

The then 33-year-old refused to use a wheelchair. He reasoned it was a move in the wrong direction.

When images of the Bali bombings flashed on the television in his ward, terror and pain and tragedy distilled and concentrated on a small screen, he stopped hospital staff from changing the channel.

Mr Fyfe said he needed to understand what had happened to him.

It was months after the October 2002 terror attacks, when he was finally discharged from hospital and returned to his Perth home, that the Scottish migrant sat on his couch and did something he had never done before and would never do again.

He cried for himself.

"I call it my moment of acceptance," Mr Fyfe said yesterday. "I just had one day at home, when I was sitting on my couch.

"It was an emotional moment, the moment when I accepted my leg was gone. There was nobody else there, and it was at that moment I thought 'right, deal with it'."

This week, for the first time, almost 10 years after he was blown up in Bali, Mr Fyfe has shared his incredible story of survival and recovery with _The West Australian _ and Channel 7.

It was an end-of-season soccer trip that put Mr Fyfe in Bali, standing on the edge of the dance floor in Paddy's Bar, when the first bomb went off.

"I got blown off my feet," he said. "I felt a massive rush of hot air just past my head when I was on the ground."

He reacted almost instantly. "I do remember picking myself up," he said. "I thought 'it's time to get yourself out of here'."

Mr Fyfe staggered outside. He remembers seeing glass and rubble on the street.

"The last thing I remember was just sitting down on the pavement," he said. "I remember sitting down and lying back and feeling my legs. I was covered in blood. That's the last thing I remember."

That was when a van in the street containing the second bomb is believed to have gone off outside the Sari Club.

"I'm still trying to determine whether I walked out into the second blast," Mr Fyfe said.

When he woke from an induced coma in Royal Perth Hospital 13 days later, the nurses told him, his right leg had been amputated just below the knee.

"My leg was killing me," he said. "It was going poisonous. It was Fiona Wood who did it. All the other doctors had taken a break. My blood pressure just started to plummet and my heart rate had gone through the roof. She basically turned around and took my leg off."

Friends later told Mr Fyfe he was lucid during the days he was in hospital in Bali.

A couple from Adelaide who were holidaying on the island, Jon Mason and doctor Irene Kushelew, were with him in the hospital while he had many operations to save his life. He came close to losing both legs.

Mr Mason told Mr Fyfe he'd had an emergency life-saving procedure, when a doctor cut him to the bone on the runway in Bali, just before he'd been loaded on to the plane. Mr Fyfe has no memory of any of it.

When he was in RPH, he made a decision not to expend energy on anything other than getting well.

There would be no dwelling on the terrorists who had committed the atrocity.

One of the big reasons he needed to get well fast, he said, was because of his then four-year-old son, Liam.

"I just kept setting myself small goals," he said.

Mr Fyfe has nothing but praise for those who helped him; the doctors, nurses, and the prosthetic expert who fitted him with a new leg.

He is humble about the part his willpower and tenacity played in his recovery.

"I refused to use a wheelchair," he said. "For me it was an easy way out. The doctors suspected I would be off work for 12 months. I was back part-time, on crutches, in five months."

At the urging of his fiancee Simone, Mr Fyfe recently began learning to surf using a carbon fibre leg. "I got up on my first lesson, on the very last wave," he said.

Now 43, he exercises fanatically, and can leg press 120kg. "I'm at the stage where my prosthetic leg will crack before I do," he said.

A manager with Western Power, Mr Fyfe said he used the resilience and patience the bombings had awoken in him to help his employees and himself.

With a grin, Mr Fyfe said his 14-year-old son Liam, his "little mate", seemed proud of his old man's recovery, and liked to tell the tale.

Mr Fyfe recently returned to Bali for the first time since the bombings. He confessed that visiting the Kuta memorial had provoked tears, which often flowed for others who lost so much in 2002.

He shies away from giving advice to others facing hardship. This is his story.

"Everybody's situation is their situation," Mr Fyfe said. "This is how I dealt with mine. I accepted it and owned it. It happened. I dealt with it. I got on with it."

The West Australian

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