A mother of three who clung to life after a horrific car crash - being told by her husband "we need you ... you have to be here for us" as she lay trapped in the wreckage - is back home and has been able to take her first steps.
Pauline Bradley, 40, suffered a severely broken left arm, abdominal injuries and internal bleeding, a shattered left ankle, torn ligaments, a broken pelvis and a brain haematoma after her black Mazda collided with an oncoming white Toyota Corolla with such force the Corolla's motor was thrown 20m along the road.
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Bradley was driving on State Highway 16 at Woodhill, West Auckland, shortly before 8pm on December 4, with her 2-year-old daughter Aria in the back seat, when the crash happened near the family home. A bystander ran to get her husband, Justin.
Bradley says her husband's roadside pleas saved her life.
"Initially it was a shock to see her in there," Justin said. "She is passionate about family and her children and I knew that was one thing to try to help her. If she had died we would have been in a whole lot of trouble.
"I had Aria in my arms and really it was trusting in the paramedics and the emergency services to do their job. All I could do was be there and try to be as supportive as I could until they got her free from the car."
Aria escaped with bruising.
After the crash, Bradley - a horse breeder - was expected to be in hospital for months. But she defied medical opinion and was discharged from hospital two weeks after the crash.
"Being there for my kids and my family has always been the top priority. Since the accident that is all I have thought about."
Bradley arrived home to beaming smiles from her girls.
"They were the happiest girls in the world," she said. "There are no words to describe the feelings I had because I had finally gotten home. The one thing for me was the last time I tried to come home I didn't make it [after the crash]," she told the Herald on Sunday.
"We had to drive past the accident site to get me home. All the feelings about being trapped in the car and knowing home was so close by and seeing the skid marks, it is always going to be a hard one. I know it will get easier."
She is now focused on learning to walk again and looking "more like mummy" for her girls, Alicia, 11, Sienna, 10 and Aria.
"I have managed to just get myself out of the wheelchair so I am feeling pretty excited and I am slowly starting some rehab. Things are definitely looking better.
"Every day I'm still coping with pain and since trying to walk again it's excruciating pain. But I deal with it 'cause I need to show my girls that they have mum back and I couldn't have done any of this without the love and support of Justin."
In an earlier interview with the Herald, Bradley revealed it had been Justin's words of love and encouragement that had helped keep her alive as emergency workers tried to cut her from the car's wreckage.
"There was a point where I did think, 'I can't do this,' and when [Justin] said to me, 'You have to be here for us', then that was like, 'Okay, I can do this, I can do this, I know it hurts but I know I can do it'," she said.
Justin Bradley, the programming director for Urban Athletics, said it was "awesome" to have his wife home.
Police are still investigating the crash and believe a white ute behind the Toyota may have rear-ended it into the Mazda's path. The ute driver didn't stop at the scene. Police have asked for anyone with information about the accident to come forward.