Updated: Jun 20
By Lincoln Davies.
Ella Kington has never been one to have her life mapped out in front of her but it would take a dramatic turn in just seconds on Monday, 30 April 2018.
Life for this independent woman, who had just turned 21, would soon depend on the lives of others to help get her back to good health.
While travelling back to Waikato University from her family home at Otama, Ella’s vehicle skidded on an oily and gritty patch on the Kopu-Hikuai Road. At the mercy of gravity, it would spin180 degrees around, the left-hand side colliding with a truck before impacting the now right-hand-bank. A police investigation later determined the oil and grit had contributed to a number of accidents on that stretch of road. The drive from home in Otama (between Whitianga and Coromandel) back to university had never been an easy one. “It took a good kick up the bum to get me to Uni,” Ella laughs. This was after Ella travelled to the United States twice and worked with young people at Camp America teaching equestrian skills.
Ella was studying Sports Science and Health at university but today, now five years since the day of her accident, you will find Ella working as Advertising and Media Manager at The Informer in Mercury Bay. Ella really enjoys the design aspect of her work and relating to the people about their advertising. “ I really feel I am helping them. I can write but I’ve never been good at spelling,” she jokes, “There are certain things I still struggle with.”
As a result of trauma to her brain from the accident, when Ella gets tired, she starts switching her words around. “I can’t read much before I get dizzy or lines get blurry,” says Ella, “So study became impossible.” Ella says her focus these days is on treasuring every minute with friends and loved ones. “People used to say to me (after the accident) you must have a new lease on life,” Ella says.
“But things are never that simple. I owe all my recovery to my amazing friends and family who were by my side the whole time. Getting me through the good and the bad. I try to value each moment, and be thankful for my health, every day. I don’t take it for granted,” the now 26-year-old explains.
Critical Care Paramedic Marcel Driessen of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter, who cared for Ella, says his recollection of the accident is a little vague but he remembers it was a foggy morning. “We were operating out of the Whitianga base,” he says, “We landed on a helipad next to State Highway 25A where an ambulance met us.” Marcel recalls Ella had suffered lower back, chest and internal injuries as well as a leg fracture but he remembers her being, “absolutely wonderful” for someone who had suffered some, “pretty horrific injuries.” Marcel says he took the time needed to manage Ella’s pain, stabilising her for the 26-minute flight to Waikato Hospital.
He’s delighted she’s doing well.
Ella thinks back and remembers well that apart from Marcel and his team, there was another angel in disguise that day. As luck would have it, a nurse who had completed a night shift at Thames Hospital was on her way home and travelling in the opposite direction. By Ella’s side the whole time until handover, Marcel says the nurse was extremely helpful. Sadly, Ella hasn’t had any luck finding this woman to date. Ella would spend eight weeks in Waikato Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Another very helpful nurse and constant at her bedside was Ella’s Mum, Fiona. “With internal injuries and a broken pelvis, I couldn’t move much. My recovery was quite complex,” Ella says. “On the worst night in hospital, Mum raised the alarm bells knowing something wasn’t right. I was in a lot of pain and I remember it being ’very noisy‘ and getting rushed around with many doctors and nurses. Suddenly, the noise and pain stopped. I didn’t see angels or tunnels or anything, but I knew I had two options. The easy one was to go.
I pictured myself turning around, looking at Mum sitting outside. She was absolutely terrified. At that moment I made the decision not to leave Mum. In the same way as the noise and pain suddenly stopped, it came flooding back. I knew I was still alive. I think about what my family did for me and means to me and I fight back tears.” Half of young Ella’s recovery time was actually spent in an older person’s rehabilitation unit (another ward in the Waikato Hospital). She was grateful for the quiet and the break from the busy-ness of the Intensive Care Ward.
“I had to work to become a whole new person again,” she says, “This was especially so navigating struggles with mental health which has been a journey in itself.” “I got to a point where I thought I wouldn’t want anybody in the world to go through this, but I also wouldn’t change what happened to me either,” says Ella. “It’s made me stronger and without experiencing the things I have, I wouldn’t connect with people in the same way.”
Ella has created a new life for herself together with partner, Ashe and Tigger, her dog. She has been working running her own business for the last couple of years until joining the Informer team. She loves surfing and now calls Hot Water Beach home. Her independence is largely back.
Ella knows the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew hugely contributed to her surviving the accident and is grateful for what the team did for her.
The Shelby 2023 Lottery is on now. To support the work of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter and be in to win the last ever Shelby GT-Heritage built in the world,
Can you help us find the road-side nurse who helped Ella on Monday, 30th April 2018?
Visit the “Westpac Rescue – Auckland” facebook page and please help us find her.
Caption: Helicopter pad at Auckland Hospital.