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Brave Dad: My Powertool Horror

Dave’s accident took him to the brink but love helped heal him
  • Dave Williams, 37, from Yorke Peninsula, SA had a terrible accident with a concrete cutter
  • Slicing his neck and face open it left Dave with crippling PTSD
  • But love proved the best medicine and meeting Hanna healed his pain

Here Dave tells his story in his own words 

Turning up at a house renovation in Adelaide, I pulled on my earmuffs, safety goggles and gloves. A concrete cutter, I prided myself on being safety conscious, knowing how dangerous the power tools were.

‘Hello,’ I said to the elderly owner and a few tradies on site, before setting myself up in the lounge room.

Picking up the metal concrete cutter with a rotating blade, I pressed it against the grey concrete wall. The new razor-sharp blade cut through the concrete like butter.

About 10am I set up in the back garden to cut the shape of a double door into the wall.

With no-one else there, it was nice and quiet. 

Grasping the cutter far back by the handle, I leaned over carefully to guide it, as I pressed it on the concrete.

As the blade whirred, I noticed it grab a bit of metal in the wall.

In a split second the cutter kicked back at 250km per hour. The momentum propelled me into the garden.

As I reeled backwards, the metal guard handle on top of the rotating blade thrust upwards, ramming hard into my mouth.

I heard a gruesome chink of metal on bone as the guard handle ripped up into my left cheek, slitting my throat, across my neck and down into my chest.

Dave after the accident (Credit: Supplied)

‘A gruesome chink of metal on bone as the guard handle ripped up into my left cheek, slitting my throat’

In shock, I threw the cutter to the ground.

Dazed, I felt the skin above my mouth flapping back to my ear as the cutter had peeled back half my face.

This isn’t good, I thought, as I clamped my left hand over it to hold the skin in place.

But as the metallic taste of blood filled my mouth, I realised blood was also flooding onto the ground.

Stumbling to the front of the house, two tradies backed away in shock at the sight of me.

The owner, a little old lady, looked white as a ghost.

Grabbing the hand of the gyprocker, I said, ‘I’m okay, just keep me awake.’

As stabbing pain kicked in, wooziness took hold and I dipped in and out of consciousness. I felt myself drift out of my body, looking down.

Suddenly I saw paramedics running up to the house.

The ambos administered pain relief and loaded me into the ambulance. The next thing I knew I was in Royal Adelaide Hospital and my mum Judy, then 57, was by my side.

Doctors explained I’d undergone seven hours of surgery.

‘You are very lucky to be alive. You missed your jugular by one millimetre and were another millimetre away from losing your left eye,’ the surgeon said.

I underwent another seven hours of plastic surgery. Nurses explained I’d had over 3000 micro stitches. Discharged after a week in ICU, I felt so lucky to be alive. Unable to open my mouth properly or swallow, I had to blend food and drink it through a straw, and I was dosed up on painkillers.

Dave’s scar after the accident (Credit: Supplied)

‘You are very lucky to be alive.’

Washing or shaving were impossible and I had no feeling in my left cheek where the nerves had been severed.

Mum, my dad Jeff, then 60, my twin brother Brenton, and our siblings Shane, 21, and Ross, 19, were there to support me but it was a battle.

Looking in the mirror I recoiled at the long, gnarled scar spreading down my neck to my chest.

I was plagued by terrible nightmares, and woke drenched in sweat, terrified. Loud noises and voices in the street led to horrific anxiety and panic, and I couldn’t stand crowds.

I battled through physio on my neck and sank into depression.

My mental health deteriorated so much that I couldn’t go back to work.

But as months without working drew into years, I felt a shadow of my former self, in the grip of crippling anxiety that no amount of counselling seemed to help.

Then, six years after my accident, in 2018, I met a lovely lady online called Hanna, then 34, a hairdresser. When we met up, Hanna was such a beautiful, positive happy person, just being around her calmed me.

‘It sounds so awful what you’ve been through,’ she said sympathetically.

Hanna’s gentleness and her kindness were the best therapy.

In 2019 my permanent disability claim was granted, however still I struggled with anxiety.

Dave with son Jai (Credit: Supplied)

‘Hanna’s gentleness and her kindness were the best therapy.’

But I loved taking Hanna fishing in the countryside. Sitting quietly away from the hustle and bustle of Adelaide was such a tonic.

‘Would you like to move to the country with me?’ I asked when we’d been dating for two years.

‘I’d love to,’ she agreed, and we moved near my father Jeff, to the Yorke Peninsula, in 2020.

‘Pick your ring,’ I said to Hanna when we moved in. I knew she was the woman of my dreams. She’d saved me.

‘Really?!’ she cried as we got engaged.

The icing on the cake was when Hanna fell pregnant in 2021.

Holding baby Jai in my arms when he was born in January 2022, I felt so blessed to be alive and have had Hanna to help me through the dark times.

Jai, now two, and Hanna, 40, are my world.

Now I’m back at work full time in a hardware store. I’ve never touched a concrete cutter again – when I was asked to once I broke out in a cold sweat.

I’m loving my life playing lawn bowls with Dad, and hoping to get married soon.

I want to encourage blokes who are struggling with their mental health to seek help. There’s no shame in it.

With my wonderful Hanna and Jai, I feel like the luckiest man alive.

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