Faye Emery survived a head-on smash and a lengthy hospital recovery. Her dog Bubbles lived wild in the Wairakei Forest for 17 days, sparking a community-wide search.
Now the reunited pair have moved to Taupō after Faye left hospital a month ago.
On January 18 Faye and three of her great-grandchildren were involved in a collision at the intersection of Wairakei Dr and Huka Falls Rd. She and the children were taken to Waikato Hospital but Bubbles fled, sparking a 17-day search.
When she was finally ready to leave hospital, Faye says she was so overwhelmed with the community support that she was happy to move to Taupō.
Hailing from Auckland, Faye had rented a flat in Turangi 18 months beforehand, however after just one day there she learned her daughter had cancer so she moved back to Auckland.
"Then I got cancer, so I stayed in Auckland with my daughter. I had four treatments and it's gone down."
Her last round of chemo was in early January and a little while later Faye felt well enough to take her family on holiday.
Her Turangi flat was the intended destination the day of the accident and from there she was going to take her great grandchildren across to Splash Planet. The children's mother, Melissa, was going too but at the last minute Faye persuaded her to stay behind so she could rest. Melissa made sure the older children had their seatbelts on correctly and had carefully installed the baby's car seat, not knowing that in three hours' time they would be lifesavers.
"If I was not wearing a seatbelt, I would have gone through the windscreen, I would have been dead. The children have all made a complete recovery now. The baby just had a couple of marks over the collarbone, the other child in the back was uninjured, the one in the front had injuries from the airbag. The seatbelts saved us."
The children were asleep, and Faye saw the bonnet of her car fly up but didn't realise she had an accident. With the two veins connecting her heart to her stomach sliced in half, a smashed knee, a broken ankle and broken wrist, hand and toe bones , she got out of the car to help the children, before collapsing. She was flown to Waikato Hospital where she received six litres of blood and spent five weeks recovering.
"I don't know how I survived. We are all so lucky to be alive." For the 17 days Bubbles was missing, Faye would talk to her, saying "Don't worry darling, we are going to get you out." Her Auckland friends were praying and Faye was convinced the dog was still alive.
"I prayed to my late husband and asked him to help find Bubbles, and two days later she was found."
She is grateful to everyone, including Taupō man Ken Moody who helped search for Bubbles and opened his home to family members Leanne Price and Richard Faulknor who came to hunt for the dog.
"I am so appreciative. I just can't believe it. I have got something planned for Ken to thank him."
She has enjoyed the connections made, but would like to scotch a recent Facebook rumour.
"Bubbles went to stay with Ken when I went into hospital a few weeks ago, and he posted a picture saying 'Look who I've got' and the next thing someone is saying I have given Bubbles away!"
The other driver, a Swiss tourist, was convicted of three counts of careless driving causing injury and fined $30,000. Faye says the driver sent her flowers and rang Melissa to say how sorry she was.
"She said she had lost a child to a motorbike accident, and said she felt really bad about what had happened."
Melissa and family are currently on a cruise, with Melissa six months pregnant with twins. Faye is looking forward to meeting the twins and waiting for her knee to heal. Last week she took Bubbles to the Taupo Dog Training Club, and they both enjoyed it so much they hope to go weekly. She can't wait to take Bubbles for walks along the lake front.
"Once I get my leg walking I will be walking by the lake with Bubbles, and having fun!"
Faye says she loves hearing about the search and the people involved. She would like people to contact her so she can thank them personally. She acknowledged Leanne and Richard, and grandson Aaron who ran a Facebook page, Ken and partner Evon, Rachel from Missing K9 Response Wellington NZ who helped with the search, Natalie Kapetaneas from The Hub Café, people who paid for Bubbles' vet bill, Waikato and Middlemore Hospital staff, and Kim Houghton who found Faye a home in Taupo.
If you were involved in the search, email Faye at firstname.lastname@example.org