REAL LIFE

I texted my wife ‘goodbye’

A dramatic crash in the remote bush had Vaughan convinced he wouldn't survive.
Vaughan Watson

Vaughan Watson, 29, Nelson, NZ

It was the last day of the school holidays. Both teachers, my wife Danielle, 28, and I had been mountain biking. This time, I’d gone for a ride by myself along a tricky 40km trail that I knew well.

But about an hour into my ride, disaster struck. My wheel clipped a log and I veered off course into the bush. Still on my bike, I felt a huge smack against my leg as it hit a tree. When I looked down at my right leg, my shin was sticking out at an angle.

Trying to move my leg, the pain was almost unbearable.

I felt overwhelmed with pain. Falling off my bike, I 
lay on the ground in shock.Trying to move my leg, the pain was almost unbearable.

I reached into my backpack for my phone to call for help and text Danielle. But to my dismay I had no service. I wondered how long 
would it be before my wife realised I was in trouble.

I knew I’d had service earlier in the ride, so I tried 
to retrace my steps. Propping my right leg on my left one, I leant forward on my elbows and dragged myself along the ground. Every few metres I stopped for a rest. It was exhausting!

A night out in the bush could mean I’d freeze to death.

‘I’ve screwed up and I’ve got a broken leg,’ I wrote. ‘I’m sorry and I love you.’

I started to type a message to Danielle. If the worst happened, at least she’d know I’d thought 
of her. I’ve screwed up and I’ve got a broken leg, I wrote. I’m sorry and I love you. Only recently married, the thought of not seeing her again was heartbreaking.

After two hours of crawling, I’d moved about a kilometre. Suddenly I got patchy reception, coming and going every few seconds. I managed to fire off a text to Danielle with my location.

Her worried reply came back. I’ll call for help.

An hour later, I heard a chopper overhead. But the trees were too dense to reach me. Then, my phone battery died. I felt so alone and hoped help was coming. By nightfall, I was shivering with cold.

With great relief, at around 10.30pm, I saw the flash of a torch. Given pain relief, I was then stretchered out to a helicopter.

Vaughan recoverying in hospital
Vaughan recovering in hospital. (Credit: Vaughan Watson)

Danielle was waiting at the hospital. ‘I’m so happy to see 
you,’ she cried.

I needed surgery to fix my broken shin and dislocated knee. I feel so lucky.

Next time I go 
for a ride, I’ll pack 
an emergency locator beacon tracker. I never 
want to be without 
a signal again!

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 28, 2016.

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