Motorcyclist who survived horror accident has attitude and caregivers to thank for enjoying life.

Mark Hamer is one tough customer. By rights, he should be dead several times over but this sunny-natured 57-year-old Aucklander not only maintains a firm grip on life – but also has a 'never say die' attitude.

Back in 1985, the ambulance team who scraped him up after a horrific motorcycle accident figured he would be dead from blood loss before they reached hospital.

Then there was the matter of breaking every bone in the left-hand side of his body from the neck down (including seven fractures in his left arm and a compound fracture of his left thigh). Many would not survive the shock of that.

It was followed by a bout of gangrene in that left arm – which had to be amputated – while a loss of memory and vision led to him being ruled legally blind.


As if that wasn't enough, about five years later, his gall bladder ruptured while he was asleep in bed – a condition which, if it leads to infection, can also be life-threatening.

Hamer's reaction to this hugely painful rupture underlines his toughness: "I had my mum's phone number on speed dial and my little brother was there and told mum to dial 111. She did, but I had a lot of security locks on my doors so the ambulance guys would have a problem getting in. So they said they'd bring the police and bust the door down."

In the end, Hamer, wracked with pain, got up and walked to the door and stood there waiting for the emergency services: "Well, it takes what it takes," he says. "You just get the job done, don't you?"

Getting the job done became a lot harder for the former NZ Army personnel and promising Auckland club rugby player who had just turned down approaches from Marist and Teachers-Eastern clubs to play for their seniors.

He turned them down because he wasn't match fit at the time – and he was a lot less fit after his motorcycle changed his life.

"From what I understand, the swing arm [the part of the motorcycle that holds the back wheel together] gave out," he says. "I was flung 20m into a tree, flying about two feet off the ground – and then I bounced 20m back off the tree. When they got me to hospital, I had just two litres of blood left in my whole body [most people have about five litres]."

Few people survive such trauma but Hamer has applied himself diligently to enjoying life, helped by four caregivers from Healthcare New Zealand who take turns looking after the Te Atatu man who simply did not give in to his misfortune.

"I was on my terminal leave from the army when the accident happened and there was a lot I could have done. But it is what it is – I don't feel like life owes me anything. It's what you do with your life and I am lucky enough to have four wonderful women from Healthcare NZ who come in and look after me.

"They help me with cooking, cleaning and shopping and they really are doing very well for me," he says.

His recovery was long and hard and, again, would have defeated many. He initially had amnesia and, though some memory returned in time, he couldn't remember his own name at first.

He went blind but regained some sight although he can't read, walk down the road safely or drive a car: "I have got double tunnel vision and I can't see colour at all."

What he can see is the Blues rugby team – he is a fan and has enough sight to watch some TV. Again, Hamer's perspective underlines the positive, upbeat attitude of a man never likely to see himself as a victim.

"Yes, they are hard work to watch," he says of the Blues. "But I am lucky to be able to see them, even though they have been struggling for a number of years now; I reckon they'll come right."

Hamer will always need a bit of help, but his Healthcare NZ caregivers and his "get on with it" attitude mean he is as right as he can be.