Vesna Andrik and her Tathra Surf Lifesaving Club women’s team were thrilled after winning a leg at the George Bass Surfboat Marathon on the NSW South Coast.
Exhilarating but exhausted, they paddled out in a 300kg surf boat to Horseshoe Bay in Bermagui and began to return to shore.
Watch the video above: The terrifying moment when Vesna is pinned under a surfboard.
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It was something they had done many times before.
But on January 4th, something unexpected happened.
The boat’s sweep – the team member who helped steer it – was knocked off and thrown into the water.
“You can’t underestimate her when you consider that she’s the ocean,” mum of one, Vesna, tells 7Life.
“The boat started to lose control and roll over, which means it started to turn sideways, so it went sideways into the crashing waves.”
Vesna’s teammates were also thrown from the boat, with Vesna being the last to leave.
“The boat was picked up by a wave on the shoreline and it hit me,” said the 45-year-old woman.
“So the force of the waves lifted the boat and crashed into me, smashing me into the sand.”
Vesna was anchored underwater by a 300kg surf boat.
“It was an amazing feeling. I knew I was in trouble,” she explains.
“It was almost instant numbness and it was huge.
“I felt something reverberating and I knew I was rolling around in the water, so I said to myself in my head, ‘You’re in trouble.'”
The ordeal unfolded in front of dozens of onlookers.
Members of the Tathra men’s team raced to help Vesna, who managed to lift the words “my back”.
“They acted quickly and took control of the situation,” she says.
“Some … Tathra’s men’s team are paramedics. There is also a doctor on standby for beach watching.
“I heard people yelling ‘Spinal’, they collected the equipment I needed, took me to safety and assisted me.
“My teammates came to my aid, soothed me and comforted me.
“I was relieved until the ambulance arrived.”
When an ambulance arrives at the beach, it becomes clear that Vesna’s injuries are serious.
Paramedics were forced to call a rescue helicopter.
She was taken to Canberra, where MRI and CT scans showed the extent of the damage to her body.
Vesna had five broken ribs, a dislocated rib, a punctured lung and was bleeding internally.
To make matters worse, her pelvis was broken and crushed, her spine was severed from her pelvis, and her spine was fractured in various places.
Her “spine wing” was also broken.
She needed major surgery.
Early the next morning, Vesna was taken to Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, where surgeons prepared her to reunite her spine.
The complex surgery was a success, and Vesna praises the medical staff for their work in helping her overcome all the hurdles she faced.
“The nursing staff, the medical team are really good,” she says.
“They work hard and remain kind and gentle even when they are exhausted.
“They are absolute heroes. I have so much respect and gratitude.”
After spending days in the ICU, Vesna was moved to the orthopedic ward.
Her devastating injury meant that the vibrant mother had to start at “Ground Zero”.
Mostly bedridden and now have to learn how to get up in bed and can only walk for up to 5 minutes with the help of a walking frame and two physiotherapists.
“I can’t go get my juice or water. Someone has to give it to me,” she says.
“Most of my lower body is still paralyzed.
“I really can’t do anything for myself.”
However, this hasn’t held back Vesna as she continues to push herself.
“[One day]I was in a wheelchair and I was in pain,” she says.
“I did physio until my blood pressure dropped to the point where I passed out, and I exercised more in bed.”
But overdoing it, her body “shut down” the next day.
“I couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes I couldn’t even sit at an angle,” she says.
“My back feels like someone replaced the entire midsection with a painful steel plate.
“The stiffness is immeasurable. I was weak, my head was spinning, and my whole body was throbbing and pulsating.”
Brave moms are not alone. Someone was by my side every step of the way.
She has been flooded with love and care from the community as she strives to recover.
“I have friends here right now who clean my stuff, organize my drawers, buy me books, or just support me or be here to talk,” says Vesna.
Her daughter Sinead, 23, has also recovered.
“She was amazing and really brave. It was really hard for her to see me in this condition,” says Vesna.
“She’s strong and I’m proud of her…and we’re going to get through this together.”
The driving force behind Vesna’s recovery is the love from her community.
“Love is my driving force. It has given me the enthusiasm and prosperity to go back there,” she says.
“This feeling of emotional and psychological safety filled my spirit and empowered me to focus on my physical recovery.”
Her community even goes to great lengths to help Vesna’s mother, who was taking care of her.
“People go home and take care of my mother. The surf club has offered to help her with all sorts of tasks she needs,” she says.
All Vesna wants to do is give back to everyone who has helped her along the way.
“I just want to get well so I can get back in shape, give back all this love and care, and contribute to my community,” she says.
Despite her circumstances, she has continued to study and prepare for the new job she started before the accident.
“I can’t wait to get back to work,” she says.
“My mind is still sharp, I can still think, I read these books, I watch these documentaries.
“I have been pondering this, looking at the research, looking deeply at the complexities of[domestic violence]and how we, as communities and societies, can begin to move forward to address these issues. I understand.
“That’s a big part of my desire to get back to work. I want to get back to that kind of support for the community.”
recovery and rehabilitation
A GoFundMe was established to support Vesna’s ongoing recovery and rehabilitation.
“I was so touched,” she says of a fundraiser her friends made.
“It’s also kind of reassuring, because I really don’t know what changes I need to make in my life, what this means, what the treatment and rehab might mean. am.
“I think GoFundMe answers the question of being a security and safety buffer for me.
“It’s like saying to me, ‘If I have to do something, I can do it.'”
Vesna’s spirit of sharing also continues to shine. If she has any money left over from GoFundMe by the end of her journey ahead, she plans to give it back to the community.
“If I happen to get back on my feet and have money left over, it will come back to my community,” she says.
“I spoke with a friend about how to subsidize other people if it turns out they don’t need rehab.”
Vesna will spend a few more weeks on the Royal North Shore before being transferred to Canberra for rehabilitation. She is projected to take about 18 months in rehab.
Six months later, she returned to the RNS to remove the pelvic and spinal plates and screws.
“I still cry with gratitude for the kindness and care of everyone who was by my side,” says Vesna.
“From the moment I was rescued underwater to today, at least 100 people have been needed.
“From friends to strangers on the beach, paramedics, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, tending rooms and delivering meals.
“All these people are taking care of other people.
“I have something to say about the culture and decent nature of our community.”
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