Four years ago Abby Benge was as good as dead.

A drunk driver crossed the centre line and ploughed into the car she was driving - killing her good friend and critically injuring Abby and two others.

The day that was supposed to be spent enjoying homemade cupcakes at the farewell of a friend going to London ended in tragedy.

The crash claimed the life of Shanya Kumitau and left Benge in a coma, paralysed on one side, with 20 broken bones, no front teeth and a serious head injury.


Benge said the anniversary of the crash on Tuesday would be a day of hope.

She is a step closer to realising her aim of being an early childhood teacher - a lifelong dream that was nearly snatched away.

"I have come a long way and I don't want to go down that path of negativity," Benge said this week.

"I don't want to be a victim, I want to be a victor and I don't want to stop where I was going because something happened to me.

"I want to keep going and kept getting back to being me."

Now 23, Benge has lost count of the many operations to fix broken legs and feet and two breaks in her jaw.

She endured several knee reconstructions and has had part of her skull removed and replaced several times.

Just recently Benge had bone grafts and dental implants to replace eight teeth lost in the crash.

Many of the earlier operations were done as she lay in a 28-day coma.

She was thankful she can't remember any of that.

"I remember getting into the car and driving down the road and then black. Nothing," Benge told the Herald on Sunday.

"I don't remember the month in ICU - that is gone from my life. I'm pretty glad I don't remember that, all that pain and the operations."

Her parents, Bruce and Theresa Benge, said that time is also something they have tried to put behind them.

The leaders at the Village Church, in Horsham Downs in Hamilton spent the time Benge was in a coma clinging to hope their daughter would survive. All the while specialists were telling them she might die.

Theresa said there was a long period that Benge's life hung in the balance.

"It was a pretty terrible time and looking at her... it was like looking at someone in a morgue.

"To see how far she has come is amazing. She never mopes and has the best attitude,"
Theresa said.

"She is a walking miracle and very courageous."

Dad Bruce added: "Even though she's my daughter, she's [still] one of the most inspiring people I know. Her attitude and tenacity shines consistently."

Benge still struggles with is the loss of Kumitau, who was the front seat passenger.

The 17-year-old promising golfer died in Auckland Hospital four days after the crash. Benge only found out weeks later.

Benge tried not to think about the crash or the driver who caused it, Hamilton woman Amanda Catherine Lowery.

Lowery, who was 42 at the time, was sentenced to prison for four years and two months after pleading guilty to driving with excess blood-alcohol causing death.

She was also sentenced on three other charges of driving with excess blood-alcohol causing injury, to Benge, and other passengers Rebekka Marsh, 19, and Samuel Tait, 22 - who have both recovered from their injuries.

Lowery has since been released from prison.

Benge said her focus and energy was on the road ahead.

"I try not to think about the past and the driver because you can't change the past but you can change your future."