My walking stick saved my life

Trapped down a ravine, Kitty had an ingenious idea
My grandson Jonah and I

Kitty Breeden, 82, Mudgeeraba, Qld

Driving home from town, I stopped to check the mailbox. It was at the end of the long, steep driveway leading down to the house.

I’d just been to the shops to get some money for my holiday to The Netherlands a few days later and was looking forward to it.

Despite being in my 80s, I’m very independent and love to travel.

Taking off my seatbelt,

I fetched the mail before setting off towards the home I shared with my son Sean, 46, daughter-in-law Maria, 44, and grandkids, Jonah, 21, and Georgia, 17.

But as I slowly made my way forward, my foot suddenly got caught on the car mat. The back of my shoe was stuck, pressing hard against the accelerator.

I can’t take my foot off the gas! I realised, panicking.

The car was picking up speed, flying down towards the house.

Stop! I thought, pulling on the handbrake, desperately trying to slow down. But it was too late.

My heart raced as the car careered forward, speeding past the house and into the paddock behind.

It felt like I was going at 100km/h as it hurtled towards a ravine filled with trees.

I’m going down there! I realised, horrified.

Terrified, I braced myself as the car hit the top of the steep bank.

The car flew high in the air, twisting on its side.

Everything in the car, including my wooden walking stick and bags, lurched to the side.

With an almighty crash, it hit the ground and skidded slowly downhill before finally coming to rest against a gum tree.

My car came to rest against a tree
My car came to rest against a tree

I was stunned. My head had slammed against the steering wheel on impact, but I was still conscious.

I could see that my foot was badly twisted.

My chest was injured too, but I was in too much shock to feel any pain.

In the crumpled wreckage, I tried to stay calm so I could work out what to do.

Panic is a killer, I told myself sternly, looking around.

I was lying against the car door, which was now on the ground as the car was sideways, with my head wedged between the dashboard and the seat. I was trapped.

Wincing, I tried to move a cushion, which had landed nearby behind my head, for comfort.

It was only midday so I knew it would be a while before my family realised I was missing.

My foot was in agony, so I reached for my walking stick and used it to prop up my leg.

The pain subsided a little and I clutched my walking stick, wondering how I could get help.

That’s when I had an idea. I can use the walking stick to press on the horn! I thought.

Despite the pain, I managed to push the stick into the steering wheel.

I was so relieved when the horn sounded. I pressed it again and again, but I couldn’t be sure anyone had heard.

That’s when my thoughts turned to our family dog, Scarlet. Perhaps she would hear me.

‘Scarlet!’ I shouted as loudly as I could.

I tried to keep an eye on the top of the bank, but no-one came. The hours passed slowly by, but I couldn’t lose hope.

I kept beeping the horn and shouting when I had strength.

Suddenly, I thought I glimpsed Scarlet’s head peering over. She was usually a little wary of the ravine because snakes lived in the undergrowth.

Come on, I thought. Fetch someone, Scarlet.

But she disappeared and didn’t come back.

So I pushed against the horn again. But this time it made no sound.

The battery’s flat, I realised. There was nothing more I could do now but wait.

As I prayed, I sensed a pink glow around me in the car. I took it as a sign that I wasn’t alone.

It’s not my time, I told myself.

My grandson Jonah and I

As it got darker, I realised I might have to settle in for the night.

It had been almost seven hours since my accident.

I knew my family would be looking for me.

But how would they know where to find me? And would they get to me in time?

Soon it was completely dark and my foot and chest ached more than ever.

I wasn’t cold but I dreaded the thought of spending the night in the car.

Deciding to shout one more time for Scarlet, I suddenly saw a torchlight appear. It was Sean!

‘Mum,’ he screamed, making his way down the hill.

‘Hello, I’m fine,’ I said, full of relief. I was over the moon to see him!

Then I heard Georgia screaming as she and Jonah rushed to the car.

‘Are you okay?’ they asked as Sean, who’s a paramedic, attended to me.

Soon firefighters arrived, setting up a crane with bright lights so they could free me.

They cut away at the back window and roof of the car as Jonah held my hand.

At 8pm, I was finally freed and rushed to hospital.  X-rays showed I’d badly fractured my foot, broken several ribs and my chest bone.

‘We were worried about where you were,’ Sean told me later.

‘Then Maria remembered hearing a horn beeping earlier in the day.’

While they hadn’t had any reason to worry about the strange sounds at first, it later helped them track me down.

My walking stick saved me! I thought.

I spent the next three months recovering in hospital before I came home.

Six months on, I don’t drive anymore but I still enjoy my independence.

It’s a miracle I’m still here and I’m grateful for every day.

I spent three month’s in hospital but I was so happy to be alive

Kitty’s son Sean, 46, says:

Mum often went out shopping and visited other family members, so we didn’t worry about her until it got dark.

When I called my brothers and sisters to check if she was with them, I realised she was missing.

That’s when my wife Maria remembered she’d heard a beeping in the distance earlier that day.

Our dog Scarlet had also been acting a little strangely, but there was no reason to suspect it was anything to do with Mum.

‘We need to go and have a look,’ I said, hunting for a torch.

Jonah and Georgia came with me, while Maria watched from the deck ready to call for help.

When I shone the light down the bank and saw the car on its side against a tree, I was horrified.

I raced down as fast as I could, not expecting to find Mum alive. So it was incredible to hear her say hello!

She was badly injured, but she was so strong during her recovery.

She’s a wonderful mother and grandmother and we are all so grateful that she is here to tell the tale. 

Originally published in issue 14 of that’s life! on March 31, 2016

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