Sunshine Coast police officer Mark Barclay doesn’t remember the earth giving way or falling 15 metres to the rocks below, but his family says his actions saved his four-year-old son’s life.
It was just after Christmas 2021 when the accident played out in front of horrified relatives on what was meant to be a joyous walk along a marked path to see a waterfall while on holiday in Tasmania.
“I was holding my little fellow’s hand when the ground gave way and apparently I just pushed him and my brother was close enough to grab him when I started to fall with the ground,” Senior Constable Barclay said.
“I don’t have any memory of the fall — I remember the picnic beforehand and then I remember waking up in hospital.
“I’ve been told it was a pretty big operation even to get me out of there.
“The helicopter couldn’t get in, the doctor had to be dropped and then ambos, firefighters and my brothers had to carry me out through the riverbed.”
‘No guarantee’ during coma
Senior Constable Barclay returned to light duties on the Sunshine Coast last month.
It has been a long and arduous year of recuperation since he woke up in hospital after spending all of January in a coma.
Senior Constable Barclay said his skull had fractured into 20 pieces, he had shattered both his kneecaps and broken his leg.
“The doctors had told my family that basically, there was no guarantee I was going to wake up from the coma,” he said.
“If I did, I could have been totally out of it and sitting in the corner not knowing who anyone was.”
Senior Constable Barclay remembers waking up in the intensive care and high dependency unit in Hobart after five weeks of surgeries to piece him back together.
“My legs were in braces,” he said.
“I couldn’t walk for pretty much another month.”
Blue family steps up
While his relatives sat by his side, Senior Constable Barclay’s “blue family” of Queensland Police Service employees supported him from afar by raising thousands of dollars for accommodation and supplies.
“We were only meant to be there for two weeks and we were there for two months down in Tassie, so there was a lot of costs involved,” he said.
More than $50,000 was raised for the family over several charity events, including a 24-hour swim-a-thon, a gala night and raffles and auctions.
“It was amazing to help me with all the medical expenses and my wife had to take the first six months off of the year to look after me,” Senior Constable Barclay said.
“We would’ve really, really struggled without it.”
During his months in hospital, physical and psychological tests and rehabilitation, Senior Constable Barclay had a clear goal in his mind.
“From the moment I woke up from a coma, I just always thought I was going to get back to where I was before the accident,” he said.
Sunshine Coast Acting District Superintendent Paul Ready said Senior Constable Barclay was a valuable member of the tactical crime squad.
“He’s an exceptional young lad,” Acting District Superintendent Ready said.
“He’s on a road to recovery and he looks great.”
Decorated for service
At the annual Sunshine Coast Police District awards this week Senior Constable Barclay received two medals for 15 years of service and the Assistant Commissioner’s Certificate of Appreciation for helping extinguish a house fire while off duty.
“It was great to see him come and get his awards and particularly that commissioner’s certificate, it took a lot of courage for him to do that,” Acting District Superintendent Ready said.
Senior Constable Barclay said he was focused on passing physical examinations so he could return to his regular duties.
“The future goal is to back to full-time work — hopefully I won’t be too much longer, I’m just waiting on my knees now,” Senior constable Barclay said.
“I just had a surgery to take all the wires out recently, so that’s pretty much the only thing holding me out from going back to work.”