Road to recovery

IN A small room decorated with stuffed animals and get well cards, Rebecca Bishop sits on her bed and hears another story about a car accident on her hand-held radio.
“See, there’s another one,” she says sombrely.
“There are so many accidents on the roads. It’s terrible.”
She turns off the radio and moves it onto her bedside table.
Hearing of car smashes and the rising road toll hits home for her, after narrowly escaping death in a horror crash last month.
Bec, 27, was labelled a “miracle survivor” in headlines across the state. But she did not realise how close she was to death until last week, when she came across the picture of her Holden Viva station wagon wedged under a semi-trailer on the Princes Highway.
“How the hell did I survive that? The truck had swallowed my car,” she said.
“I do think it was a miracle I survived.”
Before the accident, Bec was a social butterfly. She worked full-time doing administrative work for her own business, studied law part-time at Deakin University, and still managed to find 30 hours a week to volunteer and coach a girls’ basketball team.
On 20 February, she got in her car with the intentions of taking a one-day food handling course at Deakin University. She was preparing for a barbecue she was going to host with a volunteer group for new students the following week.
Her plans quickly changed when she became involved in a smash with a semi-trailer.
“I remember seeing the trees moving, and just thought the wind had picked up,” she said.
Then she saw the front of the semi-trailer.
The following three hours felt like 20 minutes, she said.
She can not remember how her body was situated in the car, but Bec said she remembered looking down, with a piece of the metal from a door window prodding into the side of her cheek.
Her hair hung in her face, so she could not see anyone around her.
“Everything (about the accident) is a little fuzzy, and I can only speculate on what happened,” she said.
Bec believed that she was unconscious on impact, but came to shortly after.
While trapped in the car, she suffered two brain bleeds.
She said the SES gave her pethidine and she was able to communicate with them softly and tell them her husband Nick’s phone number and her mother’s phone number.
“I was quiet and soft-spoken, which is not my normal self,” she said.
“I was pleading for them to help me. I wasn’t afraid of dying at that point.
“It was when my legs went numb that I thought I was going to die. Then I raised my voice and yelled ‘get me the f… out of here!”
Bec said she apologised for the comment, but the SES crew remained helpful, promising they would get her out alive.
“They were so amazing.”
Another terrifying moment was when Bec heard crews talking about her arms.
“I thought they were going to look like they had gone through the mincer,” she said.
When a member of the rescue crew could not get a hold of Nick, they contacted Bec’s mother and prepared her for the possibility that her arms might be amputated.
Fortunately SES crews were able to get her out of the wreckage without any further damage to her body.
“I remember the roof coming off and I felt like I was going to be OK,” she said.
“I remember hearing the chopper. Then I would open my eyes and be in a CT machine. Then open my eyes and I would be somewhere else.”
For six days, Bec stayed at The Alfred hospital, where she underwent several tests. She wore a neck brace as a precaution, had to use a walker because her knees were unable to carry the weight of her body, and relied on nurses to help her with everyday tasks such as taking a shower and going to the toilet.
“It teaches you humility fast,” she said.
After five days, a nurse discovered pieces of glass were lodged in the back of Bec’s head and spent an hour taking the debris out with tweezers.
Bec also suffered hallucinations, nightmares, and anxiety about getting into a car, something she continues to battle.
Bec said she was scared of being involved in another collision with her husband or nine-year-old (step) son James in the car and was working with a psychologist to tackle her fears.
After a week in The Alfred, Bec was moved to the Victorian Rehabilitation Centre at Glen Waverley where she takes part in physiotherapy sessions trying to regain muscle she lost from her small frame, works with a neuropsychogist because her concentration level is lower than before the accident and undergoes sessions with an occupational therapist.
On 12 March she was told she could shower by herself, started walking without a walker and celebrated her wedding anniversary with a surprise lunch and roses from Nick.
She has missed out on several important events, including university functions, James going up a belt in karate and her team’s basketball final.
But she said though she missed out on many important things, she had learned valuable lessons.
“I realise not to take things for granted – from simple things like showering to appreciating my family. Nick and I love and appreciated each other beforehand, but it made me realise how much I need someone in my life,” she said.
“At first I thought why me, now I think about what I can learn from this. I analyse it over and over. What’s my purpose on earth, am I thinking about it too deep, am I just the luckiest unlucky person?”
Bec said she hoped to leave the rehabilitation centre soon, get back to work and in a year, when doctors expect her to get the use of her hand back, continue to study law.
She also hoped to work with the TAC to raise awareness about driving safety.
“Some people think they have the control over a vehicle when they don’t,” she said.
I just want people to know about safe driving and be aware on the roads.”