SAFETY FIRST: Lucky-to-be-alive Mike Williams urges other truckies to pay attention to the warning signs.
SAFETY FIRST: Lucky-to-be-alive Mike Williams urges other truckies to pay attention to the warning signs.

Truck driver shares health warning

VETERAN driver Mike Williams isn't sure where he would be today if he didn't have the sense to call an ambulance when he did.

The dangerous goods specialist was early in a run south from Townsville when he felt so unwell he pulled his T909 over near the Burdekin Bridge, just outside the small Far North Queensland town of Ayr.

He initially thought he was suffering from heatstroke, but it soon became apparent that he had a much bigger problem.

"I pulled over thinking 'this isn't so good. I've got the air-conditioning on in the truck and I don't feel any better',” recalled Mike, 55, who drives for Port Kembla-based Unanderra Tanker Hire.

"I knew that as soon as I tell them [the emergency services] I'm in a chemical tanker all hell is going to break loose.

"As well as that I'm over 2000km from home, and the company hasn't got another truck within 1000km of me.

"Those were all the things that you start to think about but I would say to anyone who even remotely thinks they have something going on with their ticker to call a bloody ambulance.

"You don't get a second chance. It is going to be bigger than Ben Hur, there's no escaping that, but just make sure you've parked your truck safely and look after yourself. If you don't look after yourself, who looks after your kids? Who looks after your missus?”

Mike said he was fortunate that he recognised the symptoms after his first heart attack in 2012.

"I had none of the other classic symptoms. All I had was that I was sweating and I had this crushing sensation in the chest and I thought 'nah, you can't play this game'.

"I rang the ambulance and they were awesome. They took me for tests at Ayr and said you're having a heart attack. So up to Townsville I went and they put a couple of stents in.”

After a few weeks off to recuperate, Mike's back behind the wheel now and feels as "fit as a Mallee bull”.

But the former theatre nurse and popular social media user - his handle @theoztrucker has more than 3000 followers - wants others to learn from his lucky escape and not ignore what your body is telling you.

"And I would say to anyone who has had the experience I've had, it's tough. It's hard on you mentally because the first thing that goes through your mind is 'how do I make the mortgage payments?' But if you're lucky like I've been, you have a company that stands beside you and accepts that you did the right thing by making the phone call,” he said.

"I am grateful for the support I received from my employers. The encourage- ment and opportunity to return to work as early as possible has made a real difference to me.”

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