For the past four and a half years, Monique Bradley has spent every day being reminded she is lucky to be alive.
Nearly five years ago the carefree teenager was riding a horse on the beach at Whananaki South with a group of girls when her horse suddenly suffered the anguish of two broken front legs, throwing her from its back and rolling on her as it hit the ground.
The pain would have been unimaginable for Monique – however she was knocked unconscious and to this day, remembers nothing from her accident.
The memories have been filled in by those who were there, who called for help, and kept her still on the sand while they waited for help to arrive – and help came in the form of the Northland Rescue Helicopter.
Due to the horse’s condition and the possibility of it getting a fright from the landing helicopter, the chopper landed further down the beach. The horse was lying just beside where Monique had landed and the risk of it hurting Monique further was a real one, especially if it got a fright from the chopper.
All safety precautions were taken, and Monique was soon loaded onto a board and taken in the chopper to Whangarei Hospital. Once she was safely off the beach, her horse had to be euthanised to end its suffering.
On arrival, medical staff determined she had a fractured spine and a brain bleed. She remained unconscious and to this day, her memory only resurfaces about four to five days after the accident.
After one week at Whangarei Hospital, Monique was transferred to ABI Brain Rehabilitation in Auckland where she stayed for a month before being finally able to return home.
Back in 2015, Monique had already started university, studying to be a teacher, while also riding horses, doing a bit of modelling and coaching horse-riding at a pony club.
Following her accident, Monique suffered from the effects of having a traumatic brain injury. This meant initially having to learn to walk, communicate and eat again and saw her struggle with her studies and general wellbeing – each day bringing a reminder of what had happened and what was now a “new normal”.
Almost five years on, she has completed her studies and has just started teaching as a relief teacher, allowing her to ensure her hours are enough for her to make a living, while ensuring she doesn’t exhaust herself.
“For me to be able to achieve my degree, to have graduated last year and to be now teaching, is just amazing. For now, I don’t believe I can teach fulltime as its too much and takes its toll – I get too tired. I am fortunate to work two different jobs part time and that still gives me a day off to rest,” she says.
“I know things could have been a lot different and I am so, so thankful for the Northland Rescue Helicopters who helped get me to hospital so much easier and quicker. If I’d had to go to hospital via the road from out there, it would have been very hard to get to me, and would have taken so much longer – with a brain bleed, that could have meant a big difference to my recovery. I know my injuries were survivable, but it would have thrown in the unknown,” she says.
“These helicopters help save lives. The community is so lucky to have them and in all honestly, we would probably see more deaths if we didn’t have them. It is an amazing, much-needed, necessity for our community.”
When you look at Northland’s rugged landscapes, and the time it takes to get to places, that time can make all the difference, she says.
“Look at me, at my case, and my recovery. That helicopter was necessary to get me to help. I am forever thankful.”