21 Jul Farm Safety Week Pt 2 | Five years on, Tanya Vogels’ farm accident is as vivid as ever
If you saw Tanya Vogels down the street now you might notice her small limp. It you sat with her for a while, you’d probably see her discomfort. But, if you chat with her about her farm accident five years ago you’ll be amazed she’s still here to tell the horrific story.
The mother of three decided to share her survival story with the Timboon and District Healthcare Service community to help mark National Farm Safety Week (July 18-24).
She said she loved life on the farm with her husband Norm and their daughters, but had a very simple plea for everyone using quad bikes. “Slow down…just slow down,” she said.
Her farm accident broke every single rib in her body, broke her pelvis in three spots, fractured three vertebrae in her spine, collapsed both her lungs and lacerated her liver, kidney, spleen and adrenal gland.
There were very real moments when her survival was in doubt and a long, painful rehabilitation that continues to this day.
But, Tanya Vogels did live to tell her quad bike survival story. Unfortunately, at least 269 Australian farmers since 2001 have not survived their quad bike accidents.
Five years ago in May, Tanya was preparing for her husband Norm’s birthday dinner. She got home from work at the Timboon Pharmacy and decided to help with milking.
“It was Norm’s birthday, so I said ‘I’ll go and get the cows in to make it a bit quicker’,” the 43 year-old said.
“But, I accidentally got the springers, not the milkers…they were heading towards the dairy when I realised I’d got the wrong herd so I thought I’d cut them off and fix my mistake.
“I went flying down the track on the quad bike to cut them off and at the last minute saw a wire across the track. I turned really sharply, my wheel went in a rut and I got flipped off.
“I was 37 at the time and I remember all of it. I flipped off the bike and smashed into the strainer post at the gateway.
“The sound…that crunch of bones – I knew instantly I had stuffed up bad. It was the sound and the pain…I just knew I was in for a real fight. I knew my pelvis was broken instantly.
Tanya said her body flopped to the ground beside the strainer post before adrenalin took over and did its job long enough for some luck and her own quick thinking to save her life.
“Somehow the phone that was in my pocket ended up near my head. I was face down, but I could see the phone and my hand was sort of above my head and somehow close enough to reach it without having to move too much.
“If that phone hadn’t landed where my hand could reach it, I don’t think I’d be alive. I managed to ring Norm and all I said was ‘help me’.”
Tanya said Norm got there quickly and she remembers telling him to call an ambulance straight away.
“Norm was on speaker phone to Triple 000. The Timboon ambulance was out on another call, so mine had to come from Terang – that might have been another piece of luck because it was a MICA Paramedic,” she said.
“I was still laying where I ended up…I hadn’t moved, but the adrenalin was gone and the pain was overwhelming. My left lung had collapsed, I couldn’t breathe…I was drowning.
“The ambulance arrived and it was Troy Neal – a friend of the family. He stabilised me and rolled me to listen to my lungs and then put an emergency tube in through my ribs and into my lung to get the blood out…then I could breathe again and talk a bit.
“They called the helicopter, but I was taken by road to the Timboon footy ground. On the way there my other lung collapsed and Troy had to stop and do the same procedure to the other side. We got to Timboon and then I can’t remember much.”
Tanya said heavy pain relief and sedation plunged her into welcome unconsciousness. She said breathing tubes were inserted to keep her alive for the flight and emergency surgeries at the Alfred trauma centre in Melbourne.
“I was in a coma for 10 days, in which time I had two surgeries. When I came to, Norm was there and I said ‘sorry for ruining your birthday’. I had no idea it was a week-and-a-half later,” she said.
Tanya said her recovery continues to this day, with nerve damage near her pelvis and associated pain in her right leg being the biggest ongoing issue. It’s something she’ll probably have for the rest of her life, she said.
Not seeing her daughters for several weeks was the hardest thing of all though. Norm and the family had decided not to let the girls see Tanya until all the tubes were removed and she was able to talk to them – an occasion that coincided with her 38th birthday.
“That was a very emotional day and one I’ll always remember. It was a few weeks later and I knew I was going to survive then, so that was a special moment for us,” she said.
Tanya spent seven weeks rehabilitating in Melbourne, another month in Warrnambool and after a further few weeks at home she was finally allowed to stand again.
Bearing weight on her legs and pelvis again was just the start of many milestones over the ensuing 12 month to regain her independence and some quality of life.
“It was a tough time. I’m pretty resilient though and our family was a great support.
“I’ve been back on the bike – much slower though – it doesn’t bother me too much though. To be honest the strainer post bothers me more – it’s still standing there without a mark on it like it never happened.”