By Clair Morton
Last updated on: June 8, 2018 at 9:46 am
Be Positive. It’s the motto Adelaide resident Jack Annear lives by, but it also happens to be his blood type. And if it weren’t for the generosity of others who share his views (and blood type), the crash survivor might not be around today to share his story.
In 2007, Jack had just finished high school in Mt Gambier and was working two jobs to pay for a gap year before going to university.
He’d finished a night fill shift at the local supermarket on 17 November 2007, when he was picked up by his best mate Nathan ‘Chooka’ Henness.
“We were all hanging out at McDonalds when one of the guys got a call,” Jack recalls.
It was another one of their mates, Tim Smith, who needed a lift home from a party.
“Chooka naturally said ‘yes, we’ll come grab you. Where are you?’, and we went and collected him.
“It was normal, normal, normal – that was exactly it. Then the not normal happened – we turned right onto the main road and were T-boned by another car going 100–110km/hr.”
There were five people in the car that night. Three of them – Chooka, Tim Smith, and Ben Hourigan – were pronounced dead before the night’s end.
Jack, who was a passenger in the back seat, was meanwhile in a fight for his own life.
While he doesn’t remember anything from that night or the weeks after the crash, his injuries go a way to revealing just how dire the situation was.
He lists them off: ruptured vena cava, brain bleed, two broken vertebrae, a torn celiac artery, ruptured liver, collapsed right lung, severe damage to right kidney, and several serious fractures.
“It’s pretty humbling to think how I survived,” he says.
“On the hospital notes it said I was resuscitated twice… and between 2.30am and getting to Adelaide about 8am, I required about 17L of blood.”
To put that into perspective, the average adult has about 5L of blood in their body.
“I didn’t realise quite how rare my blood type (B+) was, but staff said I cleared out all stores for B+ and was also into the O- by the time they stopped the bleeding.”
By some miracle, Jack survived, as did the fifth passenger and driver of the other car.
But when Jack was lifted out of a coma more than two weeks later, doctors were unsure of the extent of any brain damage he might have.
“The very first thing I remember was mum saying, ‘I’m fairly confident he’s still there’, as they were taking me out of the coma,” he says.
“About two days later I got the questions. ‘Where are you? What’s your birthday? What day is it?’
“I said I have no idea and someone said it’s 30 November. I immediately responded with it’s dad’s birthday in a couple of days. After that there was hope for my brain injury.”
It was a long road to recovery for Jack, but these days the 29-year-old environmental compliance officer is able to live a relatively normal life, which he is now using to try to help the two services who helped him in his hours of need – the Royal Flying Doctors Service and Red Cross Blood Service.
“I thought, ‘how can I turn my negative into a positive?’” he says.
“I’m now working with programs that teach young people. If I can hammer home to kids that three seconds can change your life… I hope I’ve encouraged people to donate blood.”
“I went in to see if I could [donate blood] myself, but my injuries were such that they don’t want to take risk. I hope I can give back at least the 17L I needed, through inspiring other people to do so.
“And if you’re one of those human unicorns who is O-, you’re super special. I really strongly encourage them to donate because they just have no idea the true good they’re doing when they donate blood.”