He’s not too bad, I thought to myself when I spotted Jake, 21, on Facebook.
He was tall with blue eyes and, when I messaged him and we began chatting, I soon realised he had a cracking personality.
Jake worked up the courage to ask me out on a coffee date at a cafe in Grand Central, Toowoomba, Qld, and it was love at first sight.
Sharing a passion for outdoor adventures, we were soon camping and bushwalking together.
A year later, in 2018, Jake got down on one knee.
The obvious answer was ‘Yes!’
To celebrate, we went on a cruise roaming the South Pacific Islands – a romantic getaway, just the two of us.
Returning home, I fell ill.
‘I think I have a stomach bug,’ I said.
It turned out I wasn’t sick at all. I was pregnant.
I’d actually caught the baby bug!
Discovering our bub was a girl at our scan, we chose the name Ariah.
And picking out car seats and baby clothes, we were already so excited.
On a cloudy day in May 2019, when I was 27 weeks, Jake and I were driving down to Warwick to visit my aunt, Tracy, to give her our cat Bengi, who we’d adopted not long before.
He was quite the Houdini, always managing to escape, and sadly we knew he wouldn’t be safe around a newborn.
Driving home along the highway with our windows down, Jake and I sang along to the radio, joking around.
But suddenly, as we headed towards a wide intersection, we were horrified to see two cars crash right in front of us at the crossing.
Then, a truck hit one of the cars.
It all happened so fast!
'Before I knew it, the vehicle had crashed into me.'
Passing the accident, we doubled back to see if we could help, and parked with the passenger side of the car – my side – closest to the road.
Jake got out and told me to dial triple-0.
‘Stay here! Don’t get out of the car!’ he said, shakily.
I opened my door, sitting with my legs dangling outside while I was on the phone, ready to go over with our first-aid kit if needed.
Suddenly, one of the cars that had crashed lurched. It was as if the accelerator had been accidentally hit – and it was heading right for me.
What are they doing? What’s happening? I thought.
Before I knew it, the vehicle had crashed into me.
'I could see blood and a bone sticking out'
I don’t remember screaming, but I do remember Jake shouting ‘Mikaela! Mikaela!’
I was numb and in shock.
‘I can’t feel my legs. I can’t feel Ariah,’ I said over and over.
Looking down, I could see blood and a bone sticking out of my left leg, as I was pinned between the cars.
A truck driver and a woman rushed over, and the lady got in and sat in the driver’s seat next to me.
‘People are coming,’ she reassured me, while Jake was making calls, traumatised.
All I could think about was precious Ariah.
After 30 minutes, a LifeFlight helicopter arrived, and I was flown to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
‘Right now we can’t find a heartbeat. You may not have a baby,’ said a crew member before we took off.
He then explained I was also likely to lose my left leg.
I couldn’t believe what was happening.
My mum, Amanda, came to pick up Jake and then drove to the hospital to join me.
After I arrived, the last thing I remembered was white theatre lights glaring into my eyes before they put me into an induced coma so they could operate to try save my legs.
' I felt so grateful'
Waking the next day, I was so relieved to find out I was still pregnant.
But I had compound fractures in my left leg, severed arteries and nerve ligament damage.
My right ankle had suffered two deep nerve and tendon lacerations.
For five weeks, I stayed in hospital while they performed more vital surgeries, each one risking Ariah’s early arrival.
It was long, horrible and stressful, but I was so thankful Jake was by my side every day.
In late June, I was discharged after the fourth surgery, a skin graft, was a success.
‘You’re lucky,’ said a surgeon. ‘If you came by road, you would’ve most likely lost your legs and your baby.’
As Jake wheeled me out of hospital, I felt so grateful for my family, LifeFlight and the medical team.
They saved us, I thought.
Two weeks later, at 36 weeks, my water broke and Ariah was born at Toowoomba Hospital, happy and healthy.
‘You’re an angel,’ I said to my beautiful girl.
After all we’d been through, she was perfect.
Now I just had to get back on my feet.
By the time Ariah was six months old, I was walking again, and Jake and I got married at a country retreat in Forest Hill, Qld.
Then in June 2021, two years on from the accident, I was shocked to be diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.
Life threw us a grenade again, but now, as I undergo chemotherapy, all I see is light at the end of the tunnel.
I have my life, my legs, my daughter, and my amazing husband.
Ariah, now two, loves Teletubbies, arts and crafts, and baking.
I am so lucky for my angel – my little, cheeky Ariah – who always brings me hope.
This story appeared in that's life! magazine in February, 2022.