‘My eyes were open, but I couldn’t see’
The early morning dew had left a wet slick on the road surface and that, combined with a momentary lapse in concentration at a notoriously bad corner, was all it took to send her sliding across the centre line into the path of an oncoming car.
“It happened so quickly,” she recalls. “I remember thinking that if no one was coming, I could just move my car back onto the other side.”
But there was someone coming.
Ashleigh spun her wheel to try and get out of the way, but she lost control and heard a loud crash, before her car started spinning.
“When the car stopped, I felt ok, but all of a sudden I knew I had really hurt myself because I couldn’t move my leg. I was telling myself to stay awake – but everything went black. It was so scary – my eyes were open, but I couldn’t see a thing.”
After a few moments Ashleigh regained some of her sight. People had gathered by then and she asked someone to use their phone to call her mum, who lived just five minutes away.
Because of Ashleigh’s calm demeanour, her mum had not realised the extent of the accident.
When she saw her daughter being cut free by the Fire Service her “heart sank with shock and worry.”
Luckily for Ashleigh, there was a doctor on the scene that day who monitored her, and her mum held her hand until the helicopter arrived.
The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew left their Mechanics Bay base at 8.14 am and arrived in Awhitu 14 minutes later. “I remember mum being quite impressed that the helicopter actually landed on the road,” laughs Ashleigh.
After being extracted from the car, Ashleigh advised she had a painful stomach and no feeling in parts of her legs. She was treated and transported to Middlemore Hospital in a serious condition, the total journey time just taking 12 minutes.
In total, Ashleigh spent nine days in hospital, being unable to move at all for three of those days. She learnt that she had cracked the L5 vertebrae in her spine, had three vertical fractures of her sacrum and broken her pelvis in several places.
She underwent surgery where large pins were installed to stabilise the broken bones. She was unable to bear any weight on her left leg for six weeks after surgery and also had to inject herself in the stomach every day to stop blood clots from forming.
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