As she flew off her mountain bike, down a bank and onto the floor of the Whakarewarewa Forest below, Laura sensed this was no ordinary fall.
She had had her fair share of tumbles before, but this one felt different.
What began as a ride through the Redwoods to celebrate her birthday with friends, had now ended with Laura fracturing three vertebrae in her neck and suffering multiple rib fractures. She also smashed her T-5 vertebrae in half and was, from that moment, a paraplegic.
“I was really terrified. There was no cellphone coverage which made things worse. The other riders had to go off to find reception and direct the ambulance to
the closest point within reach of me. The Redwoods are a walking track and not accessible to an ambulance. Thankfully people stayed with me on the track until help arrived.”
BayTrust Rescue Helicopter pilot Barry Vincent said it was difficult to pinpoint Laura’s exact location as the area was heavily vegetated.
“It was hard to find Laura’s accident site from the air but once the party were found, we utilised The Southern Trust Rescue Winch to lower a St John Intensive Care Paramedic down to the site to assist the medic already on the ground,” he said.
Laura is incredibly grateful a rescue helicopter was able to come to her aid, given her whereabouts on the remote forest floor.
“I understand it would have been difficult to get me out by land. They extracted me the most efficient way possible. Rescuers would have had to be crawling practically down rock faces to get to me, so thank goodness the BayTrust Rescue Helicopter was available. It was the best option.”
Laura, who by now was having involuntary convulsions due to falling temperatures and having been exposed to the elements for so long, was wrapped in blankets once on board. The rescue helicopter made the rapid flight to Middlemore Hospital where she remained for two weeks before being transferred to a spinal unit for a further three months.
Laura is now out of the spinal unit and living life a new way, having left Rotorua and moved back to Wellington.
“I have my ups and downs and I’m still working through some physical issues in terms of pain and mobility. I am starting to think about going back to work now. There is only so much swimming and gym sessions you can do,” she laughs.