A Brisbane man has had to make the devastating call to his friend’s parents and tell them their son had lost his leg, moments after delivering the traumatising news to his mate.
Australian James Bailey was standing in a Thai hospital, a third-world medical centre where he had seen nurses playing with a kitten in the ICU, when he reached out and took the hand of his close friend Harry Cross. He told Mr Harry Cross not to speak, knowing it would only cause him further pain, before carefully choosing his next words.
“I said, ‘do you know you’ve been in a crash?’ I felt a squeeze. Then I said, ‘do you know you’ve lost your leg’ and I got a squeeze. I don’t think I’ve done anything harder in my life,” he told Nine.com.au. “I was even the one who had to make the call to his family. You can imagine how difficult that was. It’s something I never want to do again.”
Mr Bailey had known the 29-year-old since October when the athletic young British backpacker showed up at a pizza shop owned by Mr Bailey’s wife. It was Mr Cross’ first night in Thailand, and the pair soon became firm friends.
Mr Bailey was the first person to arrive at the hospital. The first person Mr Cross called after the accident. As of today, Mr Bailey has spent six days by Mr Cross’ hospital bedside, crusading to ensure his friend gets proper medical care after he was involved in a horrific motorcycle accident.
Mr Bailey said the aspiring English teacher was hit by a sugar cane truck as it made an illegal turn in Kanchanaburi, about three hours from Bangkok.
“They weren’t able to save his leg so it’s been amputated above the knee. On top of that his hip socket has been shattered and they don’t have the ability to cut him open and screw it back together at this hospital. “He’s stuck here in extreme pain until we can transfer him to Bangkok.”
Mr Cross also suffered bleeding on his liver and kidneys, has fluid on his lungs and several broken ribs.
Mr Bailey, who has been living in Thailand for almost three years, was heartbroken having to explain to the avid skater and footballer that he had lost his leg. “I was with him in ICU recovery after he came out of surgery,” Mr Bailey said.
“He was intubated so he couldn’t talk and I was holding his hand, speaking to him when suddenly I started feeling some squeezing on my hand.” “I said to him, ‘is that you squeezing my hand? Can you do it again? And I felt a squeeze.”
“I told him ‘Thank god I’ve got you mate’ but then had to tell him about the crash.” Half an hour later, when the tube was removed from Mr Cross’ throat he simply said, “at least I am alive”. Friends rushed to his bedside to donate blood and plasma. Even a Thai man who stayed with Mr Cross to ensure he stayed conscious as he was bleeding on the road came to the hospital.
“The most amazing thing is he brought five of his friends to give blood too,” Mr Bailey said. Mr Bailey said the British embassy has been of “no assistance”.
“All they have the power to do is share information between different avenues. They can’t physically do anything,” he said.
Mr Cross’ parents flew to Thailand immediately. His brother and sister joined them a short time later. But they’ve all had to return, aside from his sister who will be leaving at the end of the week.
The Australian graphic designer leaped into action and started sending Mr Cross’ medical files to hospitals all over the country in a bid to find a surgeon who could reconstruct his pelvis and another doctor to monitor the bleeding on his organs.
He was successful in finding two doctors willing to operate at a leading reconstructive hospital in Bangkok.
But they must wait for an ICU bed to open up. The athletic UK man has had issues collecting his travel insurance and is quickly running out of money to cover his medical costs. Mr Bailey was not able to elaborate further due to pending legal proceedings.
“There’s been a police report but it’s inaccurate. As far as the police are concerned Harry is at fault. Even though the driver made an illegal turn and only stopped because his motorcycle was wedged under the wheel so it couldn’t move.”
He said there is no money for Mr Cross’ medical bills, the painful three-hour transfer to Bangkok, the reconstruction, rehabilitation or a prosthetic leg – let alone compensation.
A Thai lawyer has offered to take Mr Cross’ case on at no cost. But every second he waits in the small government hospital, he is in excruciating pain. Mr Bailey also said the level of cleanliness in the hospital is putting Mr Cross at risk of deadly infection.
“We are in a third world country and the medical team are doing the best they can, but our standards are very different,” he said.
“There are no masks and no gowns. I’ve seen nurses changing his bandages without washing their hands. Nurses were even playing with a kitten in the ICU.”
Doctors told Mr Bailey the 29-year-old would not be able to travel back to the UK safely for at least three months, unless he was on a medivac plane – which is not “financially viable”. Mr Bailey said it has been a struggle to see his friend in this condition, particularly with his medical bills mounting, but he is doing everything to raise money for Mr Cross.
“As much as I am struggling as a person, I couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t here.”
He said he doesn’t think the weight of what has happened has truly sunk in with Mr Cross yet, particularly while he is heavily medicated.
“I am concerned that there’s going to be a mourning period for him when the reality sets. Once the surgery is done and the pain starts to abate, it will hit him,” Mr Bailey said.
“But after seeing how mentally strong he has been over the last six days I think he will be okay.”
Thailand welcomes about half a million Australian visitors annually and was found to be the most dangerous country for Australian travellers last year, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s annual Consular State of Play report.
Two-hundred-and-three Australians died in Thailand between 2016-17, the report states.
Thailand also accounted for the most hospitalisations, with 195 Australians treated. Donate now!