Premier Daniel Andrews was hooked up to a breathing machine for two days after experiencing respiratory failure due to his broken ribs and vertebrae.
The Premier’s doctors have disclosed the extent of his injury suffered in March, including the fact that physicians thought in the days after the fall that he would need about three months to recover. Mr Andrews’ office declared publicly that he would return to work in half that time.
Mr Andrews, who returns to work on Monday, also said he had minimal influence over government decision-making during his absence and took a swipe at what he called “gutter”, “American-style” rumour-mongering surrounding the circumstances of his fall.
The Premier and his medical team made the comments in an interview with the Herald Sun.
Mr Andrews laid on the ground outside a Sorrento home for about five minutes before his wife Cath found him, as the Premier was unable to make loud noises to get her attention due to the nature of the injuries. Ms Andrews said she feared he would die.
He was taken to Peninsula private hospital but later in the morning it became clear his injuries were more serious and doctors determined he needed to be transferred to The Alfred’s trauma centre.
He reportedly requested a road ambulance rather than a helicopter to avoid the appearance that he was treated differently to other patients. But this decision meant he could not continue his anaesthetic treatment, and roadworks on the Monash freeway meant it was a long and painful trip.
By the time the Premier arrived, The Alfred’s head of trauma Professor Mark Fitzgerald said there were concerns about the state of his lungs and lack of oxygen. Another doctor said Mr Andrews’ T7 vertebrae had been “pancaked”.
“He was in a bit of trouble,” Professor Fitzgerald said.
“By the time he got here he was in respiratory failure. It was more than just a simple injury.”
Doctors made the decision not to intubate Mr Andrews, which would have triggered surgery, but he spent two days on a breathing machine.
“When a senior trauma doctor takes Cath aside, shows her a monitor with all the scans on it, and explains to her that ‘it’s 1mm and it’s a life-changing event, you should go and buy a Tattslotto ticket’, that’s enough to give you some perspective,” Mr Andrews said.
He left the ICU on March 13 and began doing up to three-and-a-half hours of therapy each day, getting out of bed alone, putting his brace on, walking about 50m and traversing up stairs.
For the first 10 days back at his Mulgrave home, Mr Andrews received care from doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and nurses including nurse Julie Preston.
“Telling him what to do was fine by me. I didn’t hesitate,” Ms Preston said.
By June 9, doctors were satisfied the Premier could remove his back brace.
Mr Andrews thanked his deputy James Merlino for his work during the injury layoff. He also reiterated that he was consulted on major decisions, including the recent two-week lockdown, but was not integral in the decision-making process. Mr Andrews’ chief-of-staff played a hands-on role in the operation of government in Mr Andrews’ absence.
“There were (big decisions) and I was consulted along the way. It was more a courtesy of keeping me informed of things rather than what should we do,” Mr Andrews said.
“We talked a bit, particularly about the bigger things. But you don’t want to be meddling. You are either off or on. You can’t be half on leave.
“That wasn’t easy because you have views on everything but, if you were going to do it, you have to do it properly.
“[Mr Merlino] needed the authority and the room to do the job and that is what he got from me. He would want to check on a few things and we would routinely, but it wasn’t like we were on the phone every day.”
Details about the Premier’s condition were sparse at the time of the fall. The information vacuum led to questions about the circumstances surrounding the fall, and prompted the Opposition earlier this month to ask a series of questions, including who owned the holiday home, who called the ambulance, and whether police had interviewed the Premier.
Without explicitly referring to the Liberal Party, the Premier criticised the tactics.
“We have seen some of the worst politics in the last little while, and you would hope that kind of low-road gutter stuff doesn’t infect the way politics works here,” he said.
“That is American-style politics, we don’t need that.
“But it is not a pleasant thing and I just sincerely hope that we don’t see that brand of discourse become a bigger part of the way politics works here.”
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