I'm Danny Furlong. I've had a very varied, unusual life that's not over yet.
Early on I led a pretty standard life that included things like computer programming, professional running, time in the army as a commando soldier, parachuting, cliff climbing, mining and finally a dope-smoking hippy.
Then when I was thirty seven things became interesting. Fit and healthy though I was I had a bobby dazzler of a stroke that left me, after a few weeks of coma, as a mute quad.
I'm a non-verbal quadriplegic confined to an electric wheelchair. I've been that way for nigh on thirty years now. Years that have included more standard stuff like bungy jumping and travelling the Australian outback in an old bus, but also new lovers, another baby, a lot of writing and ... I'm getting ahead of myself.
I have a special computer keyboard that's operated by a head laser attached to my reading glasses. It's good, but very slow. Typing a full page takes me nearly an entire day. Because I'm lazy at heart much of this blog will be cut and pasted from dairies and stuff I wrote in previous years.
I think I'm going to jump back and forth between my early life and the life I lead now.
Perversly, given that typing is so difficult and slow for me, I'm a writer. I have all three books of a fantasy trilogy written. At present the first book is being re-editedafter which it will go through the process of being published online. I'll be telling you more about this as my posts progress. But let's get into my life before now.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
January 24, 1965 - Point Cook Airfield, Victoria
Nearly all our jumps are in the early morning, especially in summer, because the air's less on the move then, with less turbulence and less wind to get the ‘chutes off course. We have to jump out over the sea sometimes, the plane still half a kilometre from shore or more - nothing below but white-topped seas, and everyone thinking they'll drown down there, but the wind up top blows us to safety inland with just the odd ankle broken from coming in hard.
Its not yet six o'clock and most of us are sick and hung-over, quiet - the predictable result of another Commando celebration at still being alive and generally unharmed after another big boy's adventure.
We're passing the pile of ‘chutes in a queue, a sick and hung-over queue. A slow queue because as we get our ’chutes we have to have our name, number and rank recorded and because the recording sergeant's sick and hung-over, writing slow.
Geoff's in front of me. He’s my best mate in the unit and he's big and he can handle himself. It often happens that after a weekend of climbing or canoeing or whatever, it often happens that we all end up in some country pub for a quiet beer, and sometimes the local Yobbos will be itching for a fight; you know the way it goes – they see our green berets and ask if we’re special forces. Someone says ‘Commandos, sport.’ Next thing you know one of them is picking a fight just to show they're tough. They nearly always want to have a go at me, because I'm smallish and innocent-looking (it couldn't be because I take the piss out of them), but good old Geoff usually intervenes, thank God. He talks sensibly and quietly trying to appease them and then he stops talking and beats the hell out of them.
He's a private like me. He's reaching out to take a ‘chute from the pile, reciting name, number and rank. From beside me comes ‘I'll have that’, and the office sergeant pushes in and swoops up Geoff's ‘chute - name number and rank and he's away. RHIP - Rank Has Its Privileges.
‘Pushy bastard’ mutters Geoff, taking the next ‘chute. I get one and we form up beside the Hercules with the rest of the platoon, behind Pushy Bastard.
You've got to feel sorry for Pushy Bastard in a way. He's made to feel like the odd man out a bit. He's not really one of us, even though he's part of the unit. He's a full-time soldier with three stripes on his arm, but he's a clerk - he was transferred from the clerk's battalion or somewhere like that to look after the unit's office. He doesn’t' have to do our training and courses, which is just as well as all that stuff isn't his cup of tea. Accordingly, to us macho snobs he's a pretend Commando. He's tolerated in the sergeants' mess, but even there he's sort of on the outer.
He did do the para course, so now he can wear ‘chute wings on his uniform even though he hasn’t got the hard-earned green beret - the cynics amongst us say he only did it so he can get the extra pay that goes with the wings. We have to get in at least a dozen jumps a year to keep that boy scout badge we flaunt, to stay qualified and get the extra pay. I think it's a dozen jumps, but the number's academic for most of us because we jump as much we can.
Pushy Bastard isn't in any platoon, being the one-off unit clerk, but for today's jumps he's with one section, three platoon - that's corporal Bruger and Geoff and me and eight other guys.
Bruger forms us up in a stick and we number off, starting at two because he's number one - the regular section is one to eleven, and he's moved Pushy Bastard to the end, at twelve.
Pushy Bastard's not happy about that, because the guys at the end, say from number eight on, always run the risk of not getting to jump. That happens if the pilot's slow flicking on the green light or if the plane's flying too fast and it crosses the drop zone before everyone gets out. That rarely happens, but it's always in your mind.
I remember we did a mass jump once - at an airshow, it was. There were only twenty-six in each Hercules, but when we were up there about to go, standing with the red light on, word came from the pilot that the DZ was short - it was just fourteen seconds long. Safety regs say there has to be a full second between jumpers so the ‘chutes don't get tangled in the air, and with twenty six jumpers in the Herc that meant the DZ had to be about twenty six seconds of flying time long. We had just fourteen seconds, so the guys at the end were going to miss out.
The jumpmaster yelled loudly ‘Jump on my count only’ then Geoff at number twenty six muttered, and everyone near the end agreed with him, ‘Pig's arse. Go like buggery while the light's green.’
Twenty-six of us got out that day - there were ‘chutes colliding all over the place and a few drifted into the crowd below, but no-one got hurt. Well, not too badly, anyway.
Let's get back to that day with Pushy Bastard. It's a static line jump, which means the ‘chutes are hooked to an overhead wire so they're pulled open as we exit. The jumpmaster yells to us to hook up, and there goes Pushy Bastard again - he's just pushed past everyone right to the head of the stick and he's hooking on ahead of Bruger. ‘’Scuse me, corporal’
But rank has its privileges.
Green light on. Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go…
I'm out and floating free, opened ‘chutes behind and in front. I look upwards to check my ‘chute's OK - the first rule of parachuting is `Look up to make sure your ‘chute's there', to make sure it's there and opened evenly. I look around to enjoy the view. Shit! The guy up the front's doing a Roman Candle! His ‘chute hasn't opened! He's barreling downwards and it's trailing above him, streaming above him.
Look up, you dense bastard. I bet everyone else is thinking that too. He doesn't even realize he's in trouble, because he hasn't looked up, and because he doesn't know his ‘chute's not there he hasn't thrown his reserve. Stupid bastard.
It’s nighttime at the commando base and we're in the mess, the bar. We're listening how Pushy Bastard's doing after his Roman Candle. It says a lot about how high our regard is for him that I didn't think about him till now and that no-one else did either.
‘He’s alive, just’ Bruger tells us, but we knew that after the jump. He'd realized to pull his reserve a fraction before he hit the ground and that saved his life, just. We were told that much after the jump.
‘He’s a quadriplegic now, can't move from the neck down’ Bruger says. ‘If he could stand up he'd be about three inches shorter now from when he speared in feet first.’
We all laugh, but our laughs are a bit weak because we're all thinking `Poor bastard', then we harden because what Geoff's saying is true: ‘That should've been my ‘chute, it would've been my ‘chute but he was a pushy bastard - And a stupid bastard who didn't look up and throw his reserve in time.’
I've got a donor's card so if a bus hits me they can use my organs. I reckon there should be a euthanasia card too so they know when to pull the plug. I'd write on my card in mile-high letters `Snuff me out if I become a quadriplegic.'
Not being able to move, stuck in a bed or even in an electric wheelchair, can't do anything except talk to people - Christ, imagine having to live like that. I'd rather be dead. There's no two ways about it - I'd rather be dead.
March 12, 1984 - Kilsyth, Melbourne, Victoria
I'm lying flat-out on the carpet and I can't get up. I keep falling back every time I try. Rainbow's above me in her dressing gown and the bedroom light's on. I think I'm trying to get up, but I can't remember if I am. I can't remember how long I've been trying, I can't remember calling her and I can't remember what she's saying, not even while she's saying it down to me.
I can't remember if she helped me up just now and I can't remember if she's helping me walk - she must be helping me, because I think I've stopped falling over. I think I have. I can't remember.
I can't remember if I just told her `Forget about the toilet', but I'm back in bed and I can't remember if I've been to the toilet. I can't even remember if she's still here or if the light's still on - I just can't remember -
March 13, 1984 - Kilsyth, Victoria
I don't want to open my eyes, because the bed's deep and soft and comfy, but I can hear my younger sister talking down at me, bright and cheery.
'‘C'mon, Danny. It's nine already!! Rainbow rang me to come over.’
Now Rainbow's asking me ‘Are you OK?’
‘Mess, mank mou.’
‘Mess, mank mou.’ That's strange, my mouth won't work. ‘Mot's mong mif mee?’
I can't remember if I just tried to sit up. I think I did and I think Younger Sister just said to Rainbow ‘I'll get the ambulance.’.
March 13, 1984 - Maroondah Hospital, Ringwood, Victoria
Rainbow's got Bedou in her arms and I can hear Gemma somewhere calling ‘Mummmmmmee?’, but I can't see her.
They sound so far away, but they're right here. Why are they talking about me? He looks like a doctor. He sounds like a doctor too, but why does he sound so far away when he's right here?
‘We don't know what's wrong with him - we gave him an ECG - -
We gave him an ECG,
We gave him an EST,
Gave him an EBE,
‘We've tried every test I can think of, but we still don't know what's wrong with him - and the neurosurgeon's only here Tuesdays and Thursdays...’
Just Tuesday and Thursday - that's not very good.
‘We'll just have to let him die...’
Let him die - that's not very good. Let him die - that's not very good. I don't think Rainbow's very happy. Was she here before? I wonder why she isn't very happy. I can hear her talking to the doctor and she doesn't sound very happy.
‘He's got a donor’s card. He always said he'd donate his organs’.
I'm going to donate my organs, so I must be going to die. That's not very good.
A donor’s card to donate my organs,
A donor’s card to donate my organs,
A diner's card to dine on my organs,
A diner's card to eat my organs,
To eat my organs,