'They saved my life ... I would have died'
BONALBO resident David Francis has had the best Christmas gift he could imagine, when two new friends saved his life after he collapsed in his home, crashed his head on a coffee table and was knocked unconscious.
Now Mr Francis plans to nominate his sweetheart Zemy Rochester, 65, and Douglas Marks, 80, for a 2017 Kyogle Australia Day Award.
"They saved my life," he said.
"Without their quick thinking and quick response I would have died."
On Wednesday December 14, Mr Francis, 66, a former army captain who lives alone, suffered a coughing fit and blacked out on his living room floor.
"I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety attacks and about 5pm I started having a coughing fit and the next thing I fell down on the floor and was speaking pigeon English," he said.
"I came to, sort of, and sat back on the chair around quarter past, half past five and thought I better get up and get something to eat should and I started coughing again so I called Zemy and said I'm in trouble."
As Ms Rochester lived 101km away in Lismore, she immediately called Douglas Marks, 80, who lived in Tabulam about 30 minutes south and asked him to check up on Mr Francis.
Mr Marks hurried over and found Mr Francis with grazes on his head.
"I managed to get him into his car, he was very short of breath and I took him straight to Bonalbo Hospital," he said.
"As soon as we got him in, the sister in charge whacked the oxygen on him straight away."
Mr Francis said everything was a bit fuzzy.
"The next thing I remember was coming to in the Bonalbo Hospital and then then being rushed by Ambulance to Lismore Base hospital emergency ward," he said.
"I have these wonderful people to thank for saving my life and I would also like to include the wonderful staff at the Bonalbo hospital who also assisted, they do an amazing job."
Mr Francis spent a week at LBH and underwent some tests.
Now staying with Ms Rochester, a qualified aged carer, he cannot speak highly enough of his friends or the medical staff who attended him.
And the pair are thrilled with their blossoming romance.
"It was wonderful, Zemy has been so kind, it's wonderful to have someone who cares enough to look after me," he said.
"I feel like a teenager again."
However, Ms Rochester and Mr Marks denied they did anything special.
Ms Rochester said she was very happy to help Mr Francis whom she said is a very special man.
Mr Marks said he was happy to help and delighted to have met Mr Francis, as the two share a common bond of serving in the defence force.
"David keeps on thanking me and thanking me and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Mr Marks said.
"All of a sudden I have a real mate."
As well as being secretary of the Bonalbo RSL Sub-Branch, Mr Francis is a former Men's Health Peer Education representative for the Department of Veteran's Affairs
He said he knows how lucky he has been with finding support for his PTSD compared to many others.
"I make it my sworn duty that if I can find soldiers of similar problems I want to help them," he said.