Survival

Getting shot saved my life

This freak accident lead to a life-changing discovery for Donna!

After a backyard accident almost claimed the life of Donna Barbour, she was grateful to be alive.

What happened next was a series of unimaginable discoveries that ultimately saved her life.

Here, she tells her story in her own words…

Tending to flowers in my garden, I relished the sun shining brightly.

After spending the day in the classroom teaching 20 small children, my garden had become my favourite place to relax and unwind.

As it neared dinner time, I decided to fire up the barbecue. After lighting the coals, I walked across the patio, when suddenly there was a blow to my neck.

It felt like I’d been hit by a baseball bat. But with my husband, Ed, inside the house, I knew I was alone.

Confused, I reached my hand to my neck and, to my horror, realised I’d been shot with an arrow.

Frantically racing inside, I screamed to Ed for help.

He was on the phone to our daughter, Keila, but as soon as he saw me, he dropped his mobile and rushed to my side.

Grabbing me by the shoulders to stop me from running around, he told me to lie down while he called emergency services.

Please help me, I prayed.

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Ed and I (Credit: Supplied)

The next hour rushed past in a blur, as people came together to take care of me, including the young man responsible for the accident.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he cried.

When his parents came to see me later, they revealed he’d been practising with his bow in his backyard across the alley from my home when the 65cm arrow ricocheted off the target.

Flying over several fences, it passed through tall shrubs, the branches of an oak tree, between two large hanging baskets on my patio and right into my neck.

A shot from a compound bow can travel up to 320kph!

I knew it was a miracle I’d survived, but there was no way he could’ve predicted what happened – it was just a freak accident.

Thankfully, once help arrived, they organised to fly me by helicopter to the nearest trauma hospital.

Once there, I was rushed to the trauma unit, where I was met by Keila and my sons, Kyle and Mitch.

Though the arrow was rubbing against my larynx making it difficult to talk, I tried my best to convince them I was alright.

‘I’m okay,’ I kept saying.

But the looks on their faces told me they weren’t buying it. It was no wonder, as they could see the arrow sticking out of my neck!

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My son Kyle, daughter Keila and son Mitch with me and Ed (Credit: Supplied)

After I had a CT scan to determine exactly where the arrow was located, my doctor revealed it had squeezed between the carotid artery and my jugular vein, pushing them both to the side.

‘You’re lucky to be alive,’ he said.

That night, I underwent a two-hour surgery to remove the arrow from my neck.

When I woke the next morning, my whole family was by my side. I was so relieved to see them again.

But, when my surgeon came to check on me, he delivered news that turned our worlds upside down.

‘Your CT scan revealed you have a brain tumour,’ he said.

Though he was almost certain it was benign, he admitted it would be difficult to remove.

Located next to the major vein that drains blood from the brain, one wrong move could cause it to rupture. It was a risk he wasn’t prepared to take.

Numb, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. So, I decided to seek a second opinion.

Though the second neurosurgeon agreed it would be tricky, he conceded it had to be done, explaining that if left untreated, the tumour would cross the midline of my
brain, resulting in a massive stroke.

Still, I struggled to comprehend just how serious my condition was.

Instead, I tried to persuade the medical team to let me finish the school year, after which I planned to retire.

But the surgeon told me there was no time to waste, saying it was a matter of life and death.

The next week, I was back in surgery to have the tumour removed.

And two weeks after that, I was at my retirement party.

Considering everything I’d been through, it felt so good to reconnect with my family and friends.

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Every day I get with my family is a blessing (Credit: Supplied)

Over the next three years, I underwent an annual MRI to ensure the tumour hadn’t grown back. But in April 2015, I received a call from the doctor’s office to come in and discuss my results.

Racked with anxiety, Ed and I went in right away.

The doctor explained there was no sign of a tumour, but they’d discovered a brain aneurysm.

Three months later, I was put to sleep again to have the aneurysm closed off.

The procedure involved surgeons inserting small clips into my brain to stop the blood flow to it.

Afterwards, I learned it had been on the verge of rupturing, which could have been fatal.

If it wasn’t for the accident, I wouldn’t have been having scans and I never would’ve been diagnosed in time, I realised.

Being shot by an arrow had literally saved my life – not once but twice!

Now, five years on from the aneurysm, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t thank God for the extra time I’ve been given.

And I’ve learned to live life to the fullest and cherish time spent with the people I love most.

Every day I get with them is a blessing.

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