Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Crash victim's battle to live

Despite suffering terrible injuries while out riding her bike, nurse fights on.

Sirpa Lajunen holds the remains of a bike wheel which was wrapped around her head.  Photo / Alan Gibson
Sirpa Lajunen holds the remains of a bike wheel which was wrapped around her head. Photo / Alan Gibson

Her body battered by the 4WD which knocked her from her bicycle, Sirpa Lajunen told herself she "had to live" as paramedics scrambled her to hospital.

After nearly four months and countless moments of excruciating pain since she and husband David Joyce were run down while riding near Taupo, Ms Lajunen remains determined to do just that.

The nurse tomorrow marks her first day back at work since she was sent flying into a ditch by a Toyota Hilux driven by 17-year-old Jordan Lee Dobbyn on May 25.

Speaking to the Herald at the Kinloch home she shares with her husband yesterday, Ms Lajunen recalled her last memories from the collision was looking down at the rear wheel of her husband's bicycle and the white line on rural Poihipi Rd.

"And then it was gone. Because I was knocked unconscious, I don't actually remember going through the air, and I must have done a full flip," she said.

"All I remember is just opening my eyes, slightly on my side in this little ditch. The wheel had come apart and was around my head, I had grass all over me and there was dirt and dust in my mouth."

Mr Joyce, who also received serious injuries, went to his wife's side and tried to find whether she had been left paralysed.

As she lay in agony, her back and ribs throbbing, Mr Joyce gave orders to Dobbyn, who kept coming back to apologise.

"They got me on to the helicopter, gave me this drug, and everything went white."

Her thoughts turned to David and their two adult children.

"I didn't know what was wrong with me ... I didn't want to have a lot of internal bleeding and I wanted to be okay.

"I just thought I had to live, I didn't think anything about dying ... I've got to live through it, I just wanted to survive."

She burst into tears as she recalled this in Waikato Hospital days later.

Mr Joyce, who was also admitted, was soon at her bedside as she began her fightback.

The damage was heavy - she had five broken vertebrae, one of which requiring a four-hour operation to have titanium pins inserted.

A jagged cut across her back, which required two operations, twice had to be cleaned out.

There were also two broken ribs, a punctured lung, internal bleeding, a heart flutter and lots of bruising.

It was days before she could even sit up in bed.

"I was crying because I was so happy ... it was such an effort."

It also took all of her strength - and the help of two physiotherapists - to take her first eight steps from the hospital bed.

Returning home after three weeks in hospital, and having to wear an uncomfortable brace, Ms Lajunen's daily existence was confined to struggling between bed, chair and shower.

"The other thing I had was withdrawal symptoms coming off the morphine ... I was very sick one night and it was just horrible to go through."

As the weeks have passed, she has been able to walk further along her street and has only just begun using the vacuum cleaner again.

But her passions of gardening and cycling remain off limits - she thinks it won't be until next May that she can use the word recovered.

Ms Lajunen has been looking forward to returning to nursing at the Taupo Health Centre, a job she loves and will ease back into part time.

She wasn't at court last week when Dobbyn pleaded guilty to two charges of careless driving but denied a charge of driving on a revoked licence.

His father, Timothy Joseph Dobbyn, has also pleaded not guilty to counselling his son to drive on a revoked licence.

"I was pretty angry for two weeks but now I've moved past it," Ms Lajunen said.

"And I'm glad I was angry because now I'm quite calm about it. I just want to get back to normal and the goals we had before, we'll now do those things. If anything, I've found you don't realise how many friends you've got when something like this happens ... it's just been amazing."

Cycling stats

* About three-quarters of all cycling deaths are caused by head injuries.
* Between 2006 and 2010, over 1,500 cyclists required hospitalisation.
* On average: More than 300 cyclists require hospital attention and around 10 cyclists die on NZ roads each year.
Ministry of Transport.

- NZ Herald

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