Bendigo mum back on her bike, six years after horror crash

Ambulance Victoria (AV) paramedics said it was incredible to see Astrid Zegers alive and well, after the Bendigo mother-of-two suffered life-threatening and life-altering injuries in a major motorbike collision six years ago.

It was the day after Mother’s Day in 2018 and Astrid, then 40, was planning to build a chicken coop with her teenage kids.

Astrid standing together with the four paramedics and a senior police constable who were at the scene of the accident on that fateful day.

(L-R) Paramedics Wayne Nicol and Kayla Watson, Retired Leading Senior Constable Peter Bullock, Astrid Zegers, and paramedics Fran Nadin and Andrew Jochs.

Before they began, she was heading into town for an hour to help a friend who was moving house.

But she only made it to the end of the street.

“I remember telling the kids what to do in the morning and I remember putting my motorbike jacket on,” Astrid said.

“I remember riding to the gate, but I don’t remember any more of the ride or the accident.”

Astrid was hit and crushed by a minivan, breaking her neck, breaking every rib except one, needing her spine to be fused back together and suffering severe swelling in her brain, amongst other injuries.

The wreckage of the motorbike Astrid was riding on with the debris scattered all over the road and under the minivan.

The accident scene. Astrid and her motorbike were hit and crushed by the minivan.

Paramedic Fran Nadin, who was a graduate paramedic at the time, was in the first ambulance to arrive.

“It was a confronting scene,” Fran said.

“Astrid was in traumatic cardiac arrest so she had no pulse and wasn’t breathing on her own, and she was still trapped underneath the back of the minivan.

“She was badly injured and we all thought she was going to have to fight very, very hard to make it through.”

Astrid's worried mother standing beside Astrid while she is resting on the hospital bed. Astrid is surrounded with hospital equipment and support tubes aiding her with her recovery.

Astrid in hospital after several hours-long procedures to save her life. Her mother is by her bedside.

Fran and partner Kayla Watson had requested to respond to the case, using local knowledge to drive to the scene quickly.

“We arrived a couple of minutes earlier than the next ambulance and in cardiac arrests, seconds and minutes really matter and can change the outcome for someone,” Fran explained.

“It highlights the importance of saving ambulances for emergencies – we were available to immediately head to this case.”

The paramedics pulled Astrid from under the vehicle and managed to improve her condition enough for her to be transported to hospital.

Astrid lying on a hospital bed and in a coma.

Astrid in hospital.

She was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a critical condition and spent four weeks in a coma.

“Waking up, I’d lost a lot of time and was like ‘where am I, what’s happening’ and then you have the awakening and it’s like ‘oh god’,” Astrid said.

“I was basically getting told I was brain damaged and that I had to go for an assessment to find out if I’d be able to look after myself again.”

Six years later, Astrid has continued to defy expectations and is able to walk again, be back in the community and even get back on her motorbike.

“Unrelated to the accident, I have an autoimmune condition and I used to be an everyday motorbike rider as part of my physio,” Astrid said.

“My bike’s saved me in a way from so many things and in November last year, for the first time in six years, I got back on.

“I’m going to rebuild my bike – to me, that’s empowering.

“Being back on it was just like being at home.”

Astrid hugging paramedic Fran Nadin tightly in front of an ambulance.

Astrid reunites with paramedic Fran Nadin.

Astrid was able to reunite with the paramedics who saved her life, to thank them for what they did.

For Fran, it was an opportunity for closure from an extremely traumatic day at work.

“This case is something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” she said.

“These sorts of jobs stay with you – the patient’s name, what they looked like, the way the scene sounded, the smells; they’re all things that you can see and feel and hear when you are reminded of the job.

“It fundamentally changes how you view life and your own mortality, in seeing how very quickly things can go wrong.

“For me, this job caused a lot of trouble for quite a long time because I obviously didn’t know she’d survived, and she has kids – it was very eye-opening to me how quickly the whole world of everyone included can implode.

“Seeing Astrid again is like closing the loop.

“These big jobs are very stressful, but the trade-off is very much worth it because at the end of the day, someone’s been able to go home to their family.”

Astrid together with her daughter Jazmin at a Mother's Day school event.

Astrid and her daughter, Jazmin, at a Mother’s Day school event a few days before the crash.

Astrid said she’s still coming to terms with the events of 14 May 2018.

“My husband told me that the day before I was so happy and I was banging on that it was the best Mother’s Day I’d had in a while,” she said.

“It’s been a rough time but when you’ve got a supportive husband and parents, and great kids, that’s what gets you through.

“It started with those people who saved my life on the day – without them doing their job so perfectly, I wouldn’t be how I am.

“The paramedics, all the people in ICU, the doctors, they all did an amazing job and I just want to thank them.

“Some days I say I wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy, but I’m in a good place from where I could have been, and I wouldn’t be without what all those people did.”

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