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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Reach out when you need help

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

Two hours after setting out on my newest adventure, the unexpected happened.

Two hours earlier I had left the amazing city of Perth in Western Australia and was heading for my next adventure. Saying goodbye to friends, it was with great excitement that I departed on my journey.

Driving down a hill, cross winds started to sway the back of my caravan. I had just completed the RAC caravan awareness course several weeks prior to this. Three days before the accident, I had the vehicle serviced, wheels balanced and aligned, a second battery and anderson plug installed, reversing camera added and spotlights hooked up. I had also been on holidays with the van and my car before without any incidents.

Driving to conditions of the road, I was 20kms under the speed limit. I knew to accelerate out of the sway. As I was straightening out, my car felt as if it was being pushed forward by the van. Another cross wind hit the back of the van with fury. It was now in a violent swaying motion and my car was moving left to right again and again.

I had no control of my vehicle at all. It was frightening. Everything seem to speed up and slow down at the same time. Sadly, the car did not slow, it spun around 180 degrees and ended up facing uphill in the opposite direction. Fortunately there was nobody travelling in that lane. In a flash, the van rolled over into the ditch at the side of the road and forced the car to follow it, rolling over and landing in the dirt on the passenger side of the car. Glass shattered, metal screeched and my heart was pounding. I was scared.

All was silent, except for the car engine that was still running. I reached up and turned the engine off. Trapped in my seatbelt, hanging sideways towards the ground, I despaired and the tears started to flow. How was I going to get out of this?

Then I heard a man’s voice. “Are you OK?”

“No!” I exclaimed. “Please help me!”

My hero had recently completed a course at his work on how to rescue people from overturned vehicles. He asked if I was in pain at all or hurt, and explained to me what he was going to do. He climbed over me so that he was standing where the passenger window had been. He said that he would count to three and release the seatbelt and he would catch me as I fell towards him.

Then he instructed me where to place my feet as I climbed out of my car. Two other amazing rescuers had stopped to help and assist me getting out. One of the heroes was a safety officer and was able to do all the checks and advise the ambulance of my condition when they arrived with the police.

This stretch of the Indian Ocean Drive north of Lancelin is notorious for vehicle roll overs. I wish I had known, I would have travelled on the alternative Brand Highway – further inland. The violent wind gusts combined with the steep downhill slope are treacherous.

I caught a glimpse of my car and van as I was being loaded into the ambulance and I started to shake. It was a nightmare crash scene.

At the hospital I had many scans and x-rays. Miraculously there were no major injuries. Bruising was the major complaint. I remember lying there on the bed in the ER wondering, “What do I bloody do now?” All my stuff was back at the crash site. The doctors had cut my shirt off me, and I had nothing to change into.

Belonging to women's travel groups on Facebook, I put up a post advising of my accident and asking if anyone lived nearby could they help out and bring in a spare t-shirt and hairbrush, possibly some deodorant too.

I was blown away by the amount of caring and offers of help from women on the travel groups. So many people offered accommodation and best wishes, from all over Australia. Lying there and reading them, I felt less alone.

My new rescuer turned up at the hospital with a bag containing more than I needed. Toiletries, good coffee and an ear to listen to me were so well received. Then others started to show up at the hospital to support me. My friends in Perth also were ringing to see how I was. This was incredible. I am not used to being helped this much.

An offer of accommodation in Jurien Bay was accepted. It meant that I could be near my vehicle to salvage anything usable. The tow truck driver had advised that the car and van would be written off. Thank goodness I had insurance on both vehicles, although never enough to replace everything.

Another lady from a facebook group invited me to stay in a hotel near the hospital with her for a few days, and drove me 2 hours north to my new temporary home with another group member Irene, and her husband Roy. Roy drove down with a trailer and ute to help me sort out the salvage. Three other people came up from Perth to assist. It had rained the previous two nights, so not only were possessions smashed but the water also damaged many items. The groups held a fund raiser for me and they raised a significant amount of money to help me get back on the road. I will be forever grateful to everyone who contributed.

It is now a month later. After days of washing clothes and belongings, I have started to replace some of the damaged items. Another vehicle has been purchased. It is a used vehicle and has electric brakes. I took it on a carmoon recently to Kalbarri. This was a honeymoon for the car and I, so that I could feel more comfortable driving. My old black beauty had been owned by me since it was brand new, eleven years ago. It takes a bit to get used to another car. I did panic at times, and delayed my trip in Geraldton when I felt that a wheel balance and alignment might be good for the car, and also my sanity.

I purchased a second hand van and Roy was kind enough to drive with me to pick it up, so that he could bring it back to the property where I have been staying. It has taken two weeks to load it up and find a place for everything. I am carefully weighing everything that comes into the van, just so that it will definitely be under the weight limit.

I am sharing my story because (while this was a really terrible thing to happen) there are a lot of positives that have occurred.

1. I was insured. Thank goodness.

2. I reached out for help. This was difficult for me, as I am the one who likes to help others. Sometimes we need to learn to accept assistance. It gives others a chance to help us.

3. Due to necessity, I have spent longer in this area of Western Australia and was able to do more activities and learn more about the area that I ever would have previously. This has given me more to write about and share with others.

4. People continue to amaze me with their kindness. People have been continually checking on me via phone, text and facebook messages. This humbles me.

5. People I have met during my extended stay are truly amazing.

6. I need to be kind to myself. The day I went to get my replacement vehicle, it was windy outside. I could not help crying for hours, my eyes were just constantly leaking. However, I need to be gentle on the days when there is a setback or upset. We need to remember that it is only a temporary feeling and it will pass.

I will start driving with the van in the next few days. Putting on my big girl panties, I will undertake small drives down the road at first, and then longer and further. Once I get my confidence back, the highway will be passing beneath my wheels again, my eyes focused on the road ahead, and new journeys and adventures to be experienced and shared with my readers.

The Turquoise Coast of Western Australia where I have been staying is gorgeous. Words cannot adequately describe the beauty of this rugged coastline. I hope that by reading my articles on this spectacular area and amazing residents that you will want to come and stay a while, experiencing it for yourself. Tell them all that Helen sent you 😊

Happy (and safe) travels!

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