Kelly Makiha is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Better year ahead for horror smash survivors

Ruth Ashby with her children  Luke 10, Michaela 16, and Troy 10. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
Ruth Ashby with her children Luke 10, Michaela 16, and Troy 10. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

Ruth Ashby and her three kids spent last year learning to live life differently all because some "idiot" crashed into them head-on. Head of news Kelly Makiha catches up with the Reporoa family in the hope it will make us all drive that little bit safer this year.

Don't get them wrong, Ruth Ashby and her kids are damn grateful to be alive.

When you know the horrific injuries they all suffered as a result of a head-on crash just over a year ago, it's a miracle they are all breathing today - and are so upbeat, optimistic and forgiving.

But the past 13 months has been hell on Earth as the Reporoa mum, her 16-year-old daughter Michaela Roberts and twin sons, Luke and Troy Thomas, 10, fought for their lives, then faced months of rehabilitation and recovery.

Each day Ms Ashby has had to set small goals that we all take for granted, like making the bed, to keep her sane at a "dark time".

As we start the new year, Ms Ashby is urging everyone who gets behind the wheel to think before they take off and most importantly - buckle up.

Seatbelts saved their lives on December 2, 2015 as they headed to a fish and chip shop in Taupo about 7.30pm.

On a straight on the Napier-Taupo Rd a driver coming the other way crossed the centreline and crashed into them, with Ms Ashby's driver's side taking the impact.
The last thing Ms Ashby remembers was Michaela saying, "look at this idiot".

In a crumpled heap trapped underneath the dashboard, she woke up struggling to breathe. She immediately turned her head to look for the kids.

Ms Ashby suffered the worst injuries and has only recently learned to walk again after spending most of last year in a wheelchair.

She suffered a broken ankle, broken femur, broken radius, degloved knee and nerve palsy, which means she can't use her left hand until nerves grow back.

Doctors told her she should have died, not from her broken bones but her internal injuries and blood loss.

Now she said her injuries were "getting there".

The good news is she can walk again, but she still only has 60 per cent use of her left arm and her right ankle is still causing discomfort.

The twins both broke their backs, among other serious injuries. It was doubtful they'd walk again, particularly Luke whodislocated his upper and lower spine and suffered a torn bowel.

But in winter they went back to playing rugby for Reporoa and this summer they are playing cricket for their school.

"The twins are doing amazing. They played rugby this season even though Luke was a bit apprehensive on the field and did not play to his full potential. But he was just happy to be on the rugby field this season. They have made a full recovery."

Michaela, who broke her radius and femur, just recently got her learner's licence and is very cautious about other drivers.

"She still freaks out a bit but is slowly getting her confidence back. She is doing really well and is hoping to return back to sports [this]year during school."

Ms Ashby described the past year as an "uphill learning curve".

"Every day I would set myself a small goal. From learning to wash and dress myself to making the bed. These small daily goals is what kept me sane at a dark time.

"I don't like to think of the past and just recently I went to the place where the crash happened and wondered how the accident happened?"

She said life had changed a lot since that day.

"Learning just the basics of life that we take for granted and learning to walk again has been a huge obstacle. But with the support or all my whanau, too many to name, they have been here just constantly challenging me to be independent again."

She said her physiotherapist at Rotorua Hospital, Carol Turner, had been amazing.

"From the first time I met her in hospital to today. Attending weekly physio sessions for the past year, she has been pushing me week in week out, but has also been very supportive."

The biggest gratitude she had was for her children.

"I thank them for their patience, persistence and understanding. Trying to live a normal life with a broken mum was hard for them all. We couldn't just go do normal activities like we used to. But all three were encouraging and loving."

Ms Ashby has returned to full time work with Kaitiaki Adventures.

"They have been amazing and have given me this opportunity I am very thankful for. From hobbling to the job interview with the whanau to where I am now. My body may have been broken and sore but my mind was still 100 per cent. The tourism industry in Rotorua are all about whanau and the support I have received from everyone including my past employer, Multi-Day Adventures, has been incredible."

The woman driver who crashed into them was convicted last year and disqualified from driving for three years and ordered to do 200 hours' community work.

Ms Ashby said she had sent the woman a Facebook message to say she forgave her.

"I don't like to hold hatred or fear because if I did not give forgiveness I may not be the person I am today."

She said the past 13 months would have been harder if it weren't for friends and family who travelled near and far to be with them.

"The helicopter trust we used that night. The awesome staff in Rotorua's ICU and orthopaedics who looked after myself and Michaela and also the staff at Waikato Hospital for taking care of the boys. The people involved in our aftercare and also all of Michaela's friends."

As Ms Ashby looks forward to a much better 2017, she asked every driver to be cautious and wear seatbelts.

"We have had a few near misses already as drivers are not paying attention."

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