Vicki Traas

Lengthy recuperation

Hearing the rotors of the Northland rescue chopper in the distance get louder and louder was the most welcome sound, according to Kerikeri woman Vicki Traas. Just few months ago she was laying injured on the lawn of her home, counting the moments until help arrived.

Vicki had been riding her beloved horse bareback around her property when disaster struck – the horse reared up after getting a fright, and Vicki fell – directly under the hooves of the large animal, which trampled her as it fled the scene.

Lying on the ground, it was clear all was not okay. Her two young daughters had witnessed the fall and quickly ran to their older brother Josh, 13, for help. Josh rang 111 and in just seconds the decision to send the helicopter was made.

“The 111 operator recognised that I could have had extensive internal bleeding, or a neck or spine injury and it was decided the helicopter would be sent. By now, I had started to come around and I was trying to tell Josh I was ok and that I didn’t need help – but then realised I really did,” she says.

“I have never been so relieved to hear the helicopter arriving, but then I was worried about my kids. I shouldn’t have, the paramedics were just so professional and helped look after them, telling them what was happening and how everything was going to be done. The whole time the kids were kept informed and were able to see me, instead of being pushed back.”

Vicki was driven down the road to a helipad, where the helicopter was waiting for her and the paramedic team.

The flight to Whangarei Base Hospital was quick, with doctors awaiting her arrival for scans and tests – all coming back a lot clearer than expected.

“My injuries consisted of a concussion, bruised kidneys and hairline fractured ribs. The doctors and nurses were amazed, they had expected a lot worse. They were very surprised that I had walked away so lightly,” she says.

Just a few hours later, when the same paramedic arrived back at the hospital transporting another patient, she popped in to check on Vicki and find out how she was doing.

“The fact that she took a moment to check in on me, to take a moment from what was the only small break she would have got that night – that is just amazing. That shows she goes above and beyond from what her normal role is, I was really surprised and thankful.”

The high school English teacher is still recovering from her accident, with a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome.

“The after-effects have been hard, I just get so tired. I had a helmet on when I fell, but apparently it is all down to the part of the brain that is affected. I am hoping to return to full-time work this term. It certainly has been a struggle.”

Vicki says she urges others to support the Northland Rescue Helicopters during their annual appeal – and any other chance they get too.

“You honestly never know when it might be you that they are coming to help. When you are lying there, hearing it arrive is the most welcome sound in the world. Not knowing whether I would see my children again, or what was happening within my body – that was so scary. To know they were there to help me was just so reassuring. They do the most phenomenal job and I can’t thank them enough!”