Brenda with Reg who gives thumbs-up while in the intensive care unit
by Gay Liddington
Motorcycle enthusiasts, Reg and Brenda Bolton, settled in Maleny in 2004 after teaching English in Japan for 15 years. They spent over 12 years enjoying their motorcycles along the range – then came the day when everything changed.
Previously from the UK, the Reg and Brenda decided to move to Australia after exploring the Sunshine Coast Hinterland on bikes provided by their hosts.
Reg’s love of motorbikes began as a youngster.
“I’ve had motorcycles all my life. I’ve been riding bikes since I shouldn’t have been riding bikes,” said the 72-year old with a grin.
“I started racing when I was 30 years old. I’ve raced motorbikes for 27 years. At first in England, the Isle of Man, a few times in Europe, then we went to Japan where I raced a 1200cc vintage bike. While in Japan I was invited to race in Daytona, USA.”
A veteran of the sport, Reg has won many races and two championships but was never injured while racing. However, he defines the fateful morning of October 28, 2016 as one ride too many.
Brenda recalled: “We got up early, went outside and sat on the swing seat over in the forest. We listened to birdsong and watched the sunrise while eating breakfast.
“I told Reg that I was going back to bed and he said he was going for a ride. Had I gone with him I would have been on the lead bike.”
Astride his 1200cc Yamaha V-Max, Reg headed south along Maleny-Stanley River Road. He slowed, approaching a bend with a steep incline beyond. One he had traversed many times. A truck followed by two cars was just beyond the bend and out of sight. They were almost stationary.
Reg’s bike cruised around the curve. He was faced with the bank of traffic. There was no time to brake. To avoid hitting the rear vehicle, he swerved to the left and went down the inside kicking off the footrest so that the bike went first.
Reg Bolton on sidecar – Isle of Man centennial celebration 2005
I spoke with Lauren Kurth as she and her sister Justine Baker, a nurse at Maleny Hospital were first on the scene. Lauren shares her experience.
“The bike flipped from just past our driveway and tumbled over in mid-air. The rider came off the bike a metre beyond our driveway, hit the culvert on the neighbour’s driveway and landed face down.
“We removed the helmet because the guy said he couldn’t breathe. He murmured the name Reg.
“An off-duty fireman was next on the scene. It was he who instructed us to shift Reg as he was moving his legs and trying to climb out of the culvert.”
Within fifteen minutes the ambulance, police and fire trucks arrived. Reg’s leather suit was cut from his body in order to assess the injuries.
Reg’s angels that day stayed with him until the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter airlifted him to Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital. By this time, Brenda was beginning to worry as Reg hadn’t returned and it was past nine o’clock. Then there was a knock on the door.
“A policeman came to let me know about the crash and said that Reg had been airlifted to Brisbane. I was stunned. He asked if I had someone who could stay with me. Our neighbours were not at home but their daughter cancelled going to work and came with me to Brisbane.”
Reg’s injuries were life threatening. A ruptured spleen, brain haemorrhage and smashed ribs. That was just for starters. His spine was damaged in three places and the lower right arm was broken. Reg was put into an induced coma where he remained for two weeks.
Fortunately, Reg’s legs survived the crash. Once it was established that he would not be paralysed, having the use of his legs went a long way towards rehabilitation.
“The physiotherapist had me walking with a frame and saw that I wasn’t putting much weight on my hands. He just slid the frame away and I kept walking.
“I burst into tears and thought wow, I’m going to walk again. I’m going to live again. I’m going to be whole again.”
Reg spent six weeks in Princess Alexandra Hospital, about ten days at Caloundra for rehabilitation and the remainder in Maleny Hospital before he was allowed home for Christmas.
“While Reg was home he continued with his rehab exercises. When he went back he was walking without a stick. The staff were so impressed he was discharged,” said Brenda.
Reg applauds those who cared for him: roadside assistance, the RACQ LifeFlight team, all hospital workers from wardsmen through to the surgeons.
“The biggest gems that I’ve come across are Australian medical workers. They are just fantastic,” said Reg beaming at his perceived good fortune.
Reg and Brenda Bolton, home again in Maleny
Brenda speaks about the support she received: “My sister Valerie cancelled a holiday and flew out from England. People kept phoning to see how Reg was and would come and have a cup of tea with me. So many people took me down to Brisbane. It just warms my heart.”
Working out in his home gym twice a day is paramount for Reg Bolton. Brenda includes that he does laps of the outside of the house and up the high steps up to eight times, a couple of times every day.
Reg admits that it’s going to be a challenge not to get on a motorbike again but cites his first love as Brenda whom he met when she was 13 and he 15. He gives thanks that Brenda chose not to ride in the lead on October 28.
Radiating positivity, Reg looks forward to their next adventure, albeit not on a motorcycle.
He adds, “We’ve been together over 50 years. It’s wonderful. Not a moment too long. The secret is to marry your best friend.”