Here, Monique Matthews, 30, tells the story in her own words.
￼Squeezing my tummy into my high-waisted jeans, I groaned.
Ugh, I hate it, I thought.
Since having my three kids, Lucas, 12, Alex, nine, and Charlotte, seven months, I’d put on 30 kilos. At my heaviest, I'd weighed in the late 90s. And while I’d lost 10 kilos recently, I’d been left with a loose jelly belly.
As a singer, it had really rocked my confidence.
Still, I loved being on stage and had started performing with my friend Berna.
One Friday last October, we were due to do our third gig. With my hubby Lee at work and our boys at school, I dropped Charlotte off at my mum Jo’s.
After lunch, Berna and her husband Ray picked me up and I hopped in the back. About an hour in, we came to the town of Mokau.
‘Anyone need the toilet?’ Ray asked us from the driver’s seat.
‘Nah,’ Berna and I chorused.
Then I spotted something horrifying. A black ute was speeding around the bend, fishtailing all over the road – and it was hurtling right towards us!
Sitting back in my seat, I looked out the window. There’s nowhere to go! I panicked.
If Ray veered to the left, we’d plunge down a five-metre embankment! So he swerved right, trying to avoid impact.
As the ute continued to careen closer, time seemed to go into slow motion before accelerating at double speed.
This is how I die, I fretted. I’m going to leave my husband with three kids – my baby will never know me!
Metal crunched as the ute slammed head-on into us, knocking the wind out of me. My world went black.
Coming to, my face was squished against the back of Ray’s seat. My tummy rested on my thighs and I couldn’t move an inch.
Then I heard Berna yelling. She’s alive! I thought.
I couldn’t hear Ray though. Please be okay, I prayed.
Suddenly, a stranger appeared at my door.
‘You’ll be okay,’ she said.
I felt better just knowing she was there. She even helped me call Lee.
‘I’ve been in a car crash, but I’m okay,’ I told him.
As the words left my mouth, my speech became garbled. A veil of shock had numbed the pain, but now it was lifting. My left side felt like it was on fire!
By now, Berna had got free and she was outside with Ray, who’d managed to pull himself out of the wreckage.
When the emergency services arrived, they had to carefully undo my seatbelt and prise me out of the crumpled car. As I was laid on the ground, I heard a collective gasp.
It must be bad, I thought.
Then, the lights dimmed.
Coming to in hospital, Mum was holding my hand.
The next day when I woke, Lee was by my side. But, with a breathing tube down my throat, I couldn’t talk.
He looked so worried, I wrote him a note.
Look after yourself doofus, I teased, to try and get a smile.
I found out Berna and Ray both had serious injuries but were on the mend.
‘You nearly died,’ a doctor told me.
Incredibly, my seat belt had both saved me and nearly caused my death.
On impact, it had sliced through my abdomen, forcing my bowel to spill out of my body.
I’d broken most of my ribs and shattered my breast bone. But the extra padding on my belly had cushioned the blow.
‘If you’d lost any more weight, it would’ve been fatal,’ the doc said. My fat belly saved me! I realised.
In hospital for five weeks, I had to have four ops – 40 staples held my belly together.
Sadly, the trauma to my core meant my singing voice was now just a rasp.
Back home, I kept trying, humming quietly or singing softy to Charlotte.
Two months after the accident, at New Plymouth District Court, Andrea Kaye Jarrold, 73, pleaded guilty to four counts of careless or inconsiderate vehicle operation.
The court heard that Jarrold came around a moderate bend when she found herself too close to the shoulder.
Trying to pull the vehicle back into her lane she over-corrected herself and lost control, fishtailing across both lanes.
In January, Jarrold was disqualified from driving for 12 months and ordered to pay $7500 in emotional harm reparation.
‘Sorry seems so inadequate, but believe me when I say I am truly sorry,’ she told the court.
'I forgive you,’ I told her afterwards.
I just want everyone to be more careful when they get behind the wheel.
Six months on, I can belt out a tune again. And I have a new appreciation of my mum bod.
Now, I don’t hate my belly – I’m grateful for it. It carried three beautiful babies and saved my life!
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