Real Life

Mum crushed by her own car: `My miracle baby’

Aucklander Karamea Matthes (26) thought she’d never have another baby after being hurt saving her son’s life. But baby Kalani is proof miracles do happen.

“When I look at my tiny daughter Kalani, I can hardly believe she is here. My month-old newborn is the baby I thought I could never have, the child I was told my body might not be able to carry. The fact that I did manage to have her is amazing, when you consider what happened to me.

“It was a hot day on 19 December 2003 and I was rushing out to buy a Christmas present for my fiancé Presley. I strapped our two-year-old son Keenan into his car seat and drove part-way up our steep driveway, getting out to shut the gates behind me. I was walking away from the stationwagon when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that it was getting closer. It was rolling down the hill towards me.

“All I could think was that my son was inside and at the end of the driveway was a drop to a creek. I had to stop it. There was no time to think things through – I just put out my hands and braced myself. The car hit me, knocking me to my knees and then on to my back. The next thing I knew, I was under it, being dragged down the hill.

“The car stopped after 20m with me underneath, on my side with one of the tyres against my neck. I came very close to having my head run over. My arms were free so I tried to pull myself out. I clawed and clawed – but I was stuck. I wasn’t in any pain but the car felt heavy on top of me.

“All I could think about was Keenan, trapped inside the car, and I began screaming for help. I’d seen a TV programme once that said people tend to ignore screams so if you’re in trouble, you should yell, “Fire!” That’s what I did, until I heard my son wailing. I called out to him, trying to calm him down.

“our house is at the end of long driveway and is quite secluded. our closest neighbours were at work and I was afraid nobody would hear me. Poor Keenan was stuck inside a sweltering hot car, with all the windows closed. We were both trapped and Presley wasn’t due home from work for five hours. I realised that if nobody came to help us, we could die.

“Luckily, the woman who lived at the top of the driveway was on her way out when her phone rang. She went back to answer it, then heard a crash and my screaming. She rang the police and when her husband and son came home moments later, she sent them to investigate. I no longer had any energy to scream by then.

“I heard footsteps but the neighbours couldn’t see me. I called out, “Hello!” When the son saw me, he was shocked. I said to him, “Could you get the car off me please? I can’t breathe very well.”

“The police arrived soon afterwards, followed by the fire service. I kept asking if Keenan was all right. Thankfully, my neighbours had him. Because I couldn’t feel any pain, I didn’t realise how bad the situation was. I thought they would get me out and I would stand up and say, “Thanks guys.”

“About 45 minutes after the car hit me, the firemen lifted it off using a contraption like a blow-up mattress, which they inflated to raise the car. By then I was very tired and wanted to go to sleep. It wasn’t until I was lifted into an ambulance that I started feeling some pain and realised I couldn’t move my legs.

“I could see by the looks on everyone’s faces, I was very badly injured. I had fractured my left hip, pelvis, ribs, collarbone and lower back. I’d also dislocated my right hip, had cuts all over my body and exhaust burns on my back.

“But probably the most serious injury was to my liver, which had split in two. I needed three major operations and ended up held together with pins. I was in Auckland Hospital for three months and spent another month in a rehabilitation unit, learning to walk again.

“What kept me going was the fact Presley and I were getting married on 15 oay, and I had lots of things to organise for the wedding. I sat in my hospital bed ringing caterers and writing out invitations. I worked really hard at learning to walk again because I didn’t want to hobble down the aisle on crutches.

“on the day of the wedding, I held my dad’s arm and walked to Presley. Everyone clapped. It was a wonderful moment. We were keen to have a brother or sister for Keenan but the doctors said that while getting pregnant shouldn’t be a problem, they didn’t know if I would be able to carry and deliver a baby because of the damage to my pelvis.

“When I unexpectedly fell pregnant early this year, I knew the risks but hoped for the best. Despite all the damage, my baby was determined to be born. A natural birth was impossible due to the pins in my pelvis so I had a Caesarean. It took 45 minutes from the time I was wheeled into surgery until Kalani was born – the same length of time I was under the car.

“The moment I saw her, I knew all the pain I had been through was worth it. She’s so beautiful.

“We don’t know why the car rolled that day – I know I put the handbrake on but perhaps I didn’t pull it on far enough or a cable broke. But I think it happened for a reason and now I appreciate things so much more, especially my wonderful family. I’m a very lucky woman. “As told to Donna Fleming Photography by Frances oliver

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