Halfway There – A Broken Leg Update

Did you do that in the microlight?

Since I first broke my leg in August, the two most common questions I have been asked are:
i) Did you do that in the microlight?
ii) How long will you have the cast on for?
So here it is folks! Just for you, the story of how I broke my leg (not with a microlight) & an update on how it is all going.

Thanks to everyone for all of the well wishes & support!

Amellia Formby on a stretcher being wheeled to an ambulance by two paramedics

Every adventure begins with a few obstacles to overcome & this one is no exception. On the second day of our recce trip in August, I broke my leg.

After two days of flying my new little bird, The Plains Wanderer, it was time to hit the road. With my project manager, Phil Allen, & filmmaker, Chris McCormack from Remember The Wild at my side, we were all pumped to set off on our drive around the country to do all of the flight planning to prepare for the big flight next year.

We had planned to leave on Monday 6th August, but the radio arriving late, strong winds & trailer brakes needing repair delayed our departure. Our new schedule had us leaving on Friday at lunchtime. I went flying on Friday morning before packing up the trike, excited to share her with everyone on the road.

Me standing next to the trike packed into the trailer at YLMQ
Amellia Formby standing next to her white microlight aircraft in a flying suit at Lake Macquarie airport
Rear view of the trike in the trailer before leaving Lake Macquarie

The wing was no dramas tied down to the roof racks of the car but loading the trike into the trailer was another story. The electrical cables on the winch inside the trailer burnt out & then once that problem was overcome, the chocks on the floor of the trailer prevented the door from closing without hitting the propeller. Out came the hammer & chisel! Chocks removed & the trike was loaded & we were on our way.

Silver four-wheel drive with a box trailer and microlight wing mounted on the roof

Our first stop was Coffs Harbour staying with friends, followed by two nights in Mount Pleasant. Chris left us on the Sunday night to return to Melbourne. Everything was going as planned.

Now we were in Queensland, the plan was to go for a fly with Neil Schaefer from Recreational Aviation Australia & Caboolture Microlights on Monday. The wind conditions were perfect as we arrived at Caboolture airfield. Neil & I set up the wing & mounted it onto the trike base ready to go. All we had to do was move the trailer out of the way…

Amellia Formby and Neil Schaeffer attaching a microlight wing to the base

Phil backed up the car to the trailer & I went to hook it up to the tow ball. Little did I know that the jockey wheel wasn’t locked in place. As I pulled the trailer forward, the jockey wheel slipped out & the trailer hitch landed on my left leg, breaking my lower tibia just above the ankle. I let out an almighty scream & the boys came running & lifted the trailer off my leg. I knew straight away it was broken.

Amellia Formby lying on the ground with a broken leg and giving a thumbs up

Both Phil & Neil’s first aid training kicked in & they were onto the ambulance in no time. They both remained totally calm as I instructed Phil to start taking pics for social media! The ambos were amazing & I learned what a ‘green whistle’ is (awesome is what it is)! I have no idea what I spoke to the ambos about on the way to the hospital, but they both thanked me for educating them about shorebirds & wished me well on my adventure! So it seems I can even stay on message when I’m in extreme pain & high as a kite!

Amellia Formby lying on the ground with a broken leg and sucking on a green whistle while being attended to by paramedics

After x-rays, pain killers a plenty & a full leg cast, I was released back into the world. I waited patiently for Phil to pick me up in emergency. When he arrived, he had already put the front seat all the way back & created a foot rest with blankets & towels. How thoughtful. Just one problem… my new flash full leg cast meant I didn’t fit in the front seat of the car! This saw Phil unpacking the 4WD in the middle of emergency to make room for me across the back seat then packing everything in again around me. My lovely friend & fellow shorebird nerd, Rob Bush, generously looked after us in his home for a few extra days.

A smiling Amellia Formby on a hospital bed holding her broken leg in plaster
Amellia Formby dancing with her crutches and broken leg
Amellia Formby sitting on chairs at the hospital holding her leg in a blue leg cast

We decided to continue on our road trip despite the break and have now been through Queensland, the Northern Territory and after travelling across the Kimberley, have made our way south down to Perth (check out the Recce Trip Adventure Vlogs here). 

We arrived in Perth at the 6 week mark for my leg – time to get this leg cast off & start flying again! Or so I thought… The break was a hairline fracture to my tibia, about 10cm above the ankle. There was no bone displacement thankfully, so the surgeon decided on a full leg cast as opposed to pins because it would likely heal on its own, which it has. However, I’ve since learned that this option is a bit slower than the surgical one due to the fact you can’t begin weight bearing straight away. 

A blue leg cast
My full leg cast after it had been removed. You really don't want to see my leg!

My tibia has started healing with a callus forming around the break, but it is not fully stable just yet. I was absolutely devastated when they told me I can’t fly for another four weeks, & at the same time happy to be spending more time in Perth; the place where I feel most at home.

So it’s goodbye ol’ blue, hello new blue… & a bit of red..! I’ll be in my fancy new short patella bearing cast until the bone is fully healed & the instructions are to weight-bear to promote new bone formation. We’ve decided to stay in Perth until mid-November to give me plenty of recovery time.

X-ray of the lower left leg
A leg in a blue leg cast up to the knee resting on a chair

All going well, we hope to be back on the road & back in the air with my little bird to finish our recce back to Newcastle. 

All in all, it has been a ridiculous affair that has seen many laughs & challenges taken in everybody’s stride. Big thanks again to everyone who has sent well wishes & offered your support. Though I must especially thank my mate & project manager, Phil Allen, who has taken such good care of me driving me all over the countryside, making me cups of tea, doing my washing, setting up my swag, rigging & de-rigging the microlight, reheating my cups of tea, getting the groceries & making me more cups of tea! Your patience over the past 7 weeks has been phenomenal my friend!

Milly Formby
Milly Formby is a zoologist, pilot, and illustrator of the children’s book, A Shorebird Flying Adventure She is currently flying her microlight around Australia in 2022/23 to share,A Shorebird Flying Adventure with primary students.
Image credits:
Book cover for A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

Available Now

Join Milly on her microlight and discover how amazing and awesome migratory shorebirds are!

Milly Formby is a zoologist and illustrator of the children’s book A Shorebird Flying Adventure. Available now through CSIRO Publishing.

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