My eyes lit up when the waiter arrived with a big plate of food.
‘I’d love another beer,’ I told him, before tucking in.
After a long day working as a labourer, I was blowing off steam at dinner and drinks with my mum Karen and brother Timmy.
And after a few more beers, we all went to Mum’s place to play a game of pool.
Then, on the way home, I stopped at another bar to put away a couple more.
A few won’t hurt, I reasoned.
I didn’t usually drink so much on a night out – but it’d been a hard week.
At 2am, I was exhausted after being awake for 20 hours and it was time to call it a night.
I only lived 15 minutes away, so I hopped in my truck.
Steadying myself, I turned on the ignition.
I feel fine, I thought.
But staring at the dark road, I felt my eyelids start to droop.
Suddenly, I jolted awake and realised I must’ve dozed off.
Now, I was hurtling around a corner at 120km/h!
But instead of the brake, I hit the accelerator hard and the truck swerved off the country road.
I lurched forward and my seatbelt cut deep into my belly, before the vehicle smashed into a boulder.
The sheer force of the sudden impact caused me to be thrown straight through the windshield.
Closing my eyes as glass splintered around me, I was catapulted straight into a line of trees.
When I felt a sickening crunch, I knew my bones had been broken.
While I was conscious, I couldn’t breathe or move because of the pain.
Groaning, I craned my neck to see where my truck had gone.
It hadn’t stopped though – and the boulder had pierced the gas tank, making it explode into flames.
Now the fireball was coming straight for me!
As I braced for it, my truck hit the same trees I was lying next to and skidded over me, so that I was trapped by the lower half of my body.
Flames licked up my torso and I screamed in agony.
It was pure torture.
Then, I felt my body being dragged away from the fiery wreckage by someone strong.
Luckily, I’d landed on someone’s property and a couple had heard me.
I couldn’t bear to look down at my melted legs as we waited for help.
When an ambulance arrived, I was pumped full of painkillers and taken to the emergency room.
After being stabilised, I was put into an induced coma, finally waking up two weeks later in a burns centre.
My entire family were waiting in my hospital room – and I could tell by their anxious, pitying faces that there was more bad news.
‘You’ve had your legs amputated Joe,’ Mum said. ‘And uh… something else.’
Before I had time to look under the sheet, Mum kept going.
‘Your penis was burnt in the fire,’ she said quickly.
I’d received third and fourth-degree burns as I was pinned under my truck. The fire had melted the skin on my legs down to the bone and they’d been amputated while I was unconscious.
Doctors also had to remove five inches off my genitals.
I couldn’t believe I’d woken up with no penis.
I also had a broken left shoulder, sternum, ribs and tailbone, a collapsed lung and a displaced hip and knee.
It was all too much to process and the powerful drugs caused me to lapse into sleep again.
As I recovered in hospital, I had 14 surgeries to patch up my limbs with skin grafts from my stomach and arms.
My penis was a second priority to my legs.
Still, it was disheartening to see how badly I’d damaged it when the nurse changed my dressings.
It was four months before I could even leave the hospital at all.
Wheelchair-bound, it was pure hell after living such an active life as a tradesman. I missed fishing, hunting and camping.
A year on, I was fitted with prosthetics. But it took two long years before I was able to start walking.
Even then, I could only get up on my prosthetics for 30 minutes at a time.
It was tough and at times I almost couldn’t muster the strength to fight on.
I’m in for a life of pain, I thought miserably.
When the burns on my legs had healed enough, it was time to focus on my penis.
I met a doctor who offered me pioneering surgery.
A penile reconstruction, using donor skin, could rebuild my genitals.
So in May this year, I had the operation.
Waking up after, my surgeon explained she’d been able to add four inches!
For the first time since the accident, I could urinate myself and even have an erection.
‘Your penis is almost fully functional now,’ she said.
I still have a lot of feeling there and could freeze my sperm if I wanted to have children in the future. It meant the world to finally have my manhood back.
Three years after my accident, I’m single and have accepted people may not be able to see past my injuries.
I have found the courage to speak about the reckless decision I made that night. It has changed my life forever.
Getting behind the wheel after a few drinks can have devastating, lifelong consequences.
Just don’t do it. Take a cab, ask a friend for a lift or even walk home before deciding to drink drive.
Not only could it kill you, it could kill others too.