Lawrence was blown away by human kindness

Mates and strangers rushed to help Lawrence's devastated family

COVERING UP: Lawrence Balcomb with the full-body pressure suit he had to wear for the first two years after an accident which changed his life.

COVERING UP: Lawrence Balcomb with the full-body pressure suit he had to wear for the first two years after an accident which changed his life.


Lying critically injured in a Sydney hospital in an induced coma, Canowindra farmer Lawrence Balcomb was unaware of the kindness being shown to his family by mates and complete strangers.


Just over nine years ago an explosion blew off his left foot, broke every bone in his face and burnt 75 per cent of his body but Canowindra farmer, Lawrence Balcomb, says he is a very lucky person.

His luck started when his mother, Moyna, came home from town and heard his cries for help as he lay on the ground, a bleeding, burnt and battered mess.

The accident happened in the machinery shed on the family property, Windarah, and he managed to crawl about 30 metres towards the homestead before he realised he was losing blood fast and decided shouting for help was his best survival option.

Meanwhile a Careflight helicopter was returning to base at nearby Orange when the pilot heard the triple-0 emergency call for help.

Had he landed he would not have been allowed to take off again because his shift had ended.

The pilot and his medical crew diverted to Windarah, picked up Lawrence and flew him to Orange for more life-saving treatment before whisking him off to Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital.

That was another massive stroke of luck which earned the pilot a reprimand for exceeding his flying hours for the day.

Doctors in the Intensive Care Unit at Royal North Shore then had to revive him a number of times as they desperately tried to stabilise his horrific injuries.

Family and friends in Lawrence's close-knit farming community around Toogong and Cranbury north of Canowindra prepared for the worst.

But his wife, Trish, was having none of it and 40 days later Lawrence emerged from an induced coma as he was wheeled into the burns unit to start a rehabilitation journey which took him back to the farm.

Around 4.30pm on April 8, 2010, Lawrence started cutting steel with an angle grinder unaware a bucket of explosive materials was sitting nearby under a work bench.

The sparks triggered an explosion which blew off his clothes along with his left foot.

As he lay heavily dazed on the dirt shed floor he thought he had been electrocuted, so he tried to roll away in case he was on live wires.

But as the dust cleared he was able to see the extent of his horrendous injuries and started to crawl for help.

He lost consciousness after the ambulance arrived and can't remember a thing about the next 40 days. After 35 days in the burns unit he went to Ryde for about a month for more rehab.

Meanwhile, a massive support effort went into overdrive to help Lawrence, his wife and their four daughters, Harriet, Georgia, Charlotte and Millie.

Their farmer mates sowed their crops and took care of stock work. A nearby farming family gave them the free use of a house they owned at Glenhaven in Sydney's north west.

Trish booked their daughters into school near North Shore Hospital and local parents took the girls under their wing, making their lunches and taking them to activities and events.

The Balcombs were used to this type of kindness in the bush but didn't expect to find it in the middle of Sydney.

Lawrence, then 44, decided the best way of repaying them all was to get better and go back to the farm.

"I didn't think I could sook going through a bit of pain, doing a bit of rehab, that didn't seem fair," he said.

"I owed it to the people who had done everything for me for 12 month to come back and have a crack at doing it all again. I'm glad I did."

Lawrence said the experience had changed his attitude to life and while the drought is a major problem his main priority now is looking after his his family.

He and his parents, Uel and Moyna, who are in their late 80s and still living at Windarah just up the road from Lawrence's home at Golden Glen, produce prime lamb and grain crops across 730ha.


From the front page

Sponsored by