Anna Phelps has had six hours surgery to put 25 staples and five stitches in her scalp and plates and rods in her arm after a tree fell on her while running a popular Northland track.

But not only was her scalp ripped open, but her collar bone was broken in two places, she suffered two other broken bones in her left arm, a broken rib, punctured lung, four damaged vertebrae and nine teeth were smashed.

"I'm very lucky not to be paralysed, brain damaged or dead," the mother of two young boys aged 4 and 2, said from her Whangarei Hospital bed.

Mrs Phelps was running the Haruru Falls to Waitangi track on Saturday September 16, when a gust of wind blew over a rotting kanuka tree about 4pm. The tree smashed her on the head and the left side of her body, knocking her unconscious.


She wants to highlight the freak incident so that those maintaining not only this track, but other popular tracks in the region, take a closer look at trees given the wet winter.

"We have had a very wet and windy winter and many of these trees will be rotting and dangerous. I'm just concerned for the safety of Northlanders and tourists who use our tracks and trails and the whole of New Zealand," Mrs Phelps said.

"I'd hate for this to happen to anyone else. This tree fell several metres from the track so by the time in hit me it was with extreme force. I thank God my kids weren't with me."

The 37-year-old, who was training for the Kerikeri Half Marathon, said she was about 3.5km along the track from the Haruru Falls end when she was hit.

"I have no recollection of what happened. I was in totally the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I was exceptionally lucky there were people on the track at the same time because I run there six days a week and quiet often there is no one else out there and I could have bled to death."

A couple of walkers, who heard the crash of the tree, came across Mrs Phelps and wrapped a sweatshirt around her head to stop the bleeding where her scalp had been torn. They rang 111.

They also answered Mrs Phelp's phone which was ringing next to her and it was husband Simon looking for her.

He dropped off their two young boys and ran the track to his injured wife.

"We were just keeping her talking and I asked her if she could feel her feet. She moved them so I knew she was all right," Mr Phelps said.

They were flown by the Northland Rescue Helicopter to Whangarei. On Sunday Mrs Phelps underwent the six-hour surgery.

"I'm just starting to walk the corridor with a frame but physically and possibly mentally it will take a long time to recover."

Various parts of her body are still numb and she was scheduled to have an MRI scan done yesterday. More surgery is on the cards along with a trip to Auckland Hospital for work on her damaged teeth.

"All the staff here are amazing, everyone is looking after me," she said of the staff on Ward 4.

"I'd like to try and prevent this from happening to anybody else. I know it's a freak accident but it does get me wondering about who's responsible for these tracks and how safe they are. We just never think something like this will happen to us and just assume the trees are safe."

Waitangi National Trust owns the land and maintain the track. Trust chief executive officer Greg McManus said the surface of the track was maintained weekly and trees and over hanging foliage was done once a month.

He said the tree involved in the freak accident was about 3m back from the track and a visual inspection had not picked up the rotting core.

'It was a freak accident that we couldn't have predicted."

He said the fallen tree was removed the following day and four staff members had spent fours days checking trees on the track.

An arborist was to also walk the track and see if there were any trees that needed to be trimmed or felled.

"We really hope she gets well quickly," Mr McManus said.