Horror stories don’t have to be written: Angela’s miracle comeback defied her doctors

By Ivy Jensen

A special road toll report by senior writer IVY JENSEN

WHEN Angela Nuss was crushed in a horrific car smash, doctors doubted she would pull through.

But she was determined not to become just another statistic in our ongoing road toll tragedy.

Two months later, she was clocking 24km a day.

Eighteen months later, she was running. Thanks to, according to the Leitchville mother-of-two, the power of positivity.

Despite overcoming enormous odds, nothing can take away from the tragedy of that fateful day that left the 56-year-old fighting for her life.

It was March 6, 2015, and the travelling division one nurse was driving from Geelong back to see her farmer boyfriend Craig at his farm in Leitchville with not a worry on her mind.

‘‘I was feeling refreshed and happy and singing my music in the car to I’s A Kind of Magic by Queen,’’ she said.

‘‘I remember going over the Box Bridge coming into Leitchville and the road just curves a little bit and that area has a history of deaths on that road.

‘‘I always slowed down around those corners. I wasn’t on my phone, I wasn’t fatigued. I had butterflies in my tummy. I remember driving past a tractor driven by a young fella and my first memory is raising a finger to acknowledge him and I can’t remember going around that bend.

‘‘The police report suggested that because of the state of the country roads, my tyre got stuck into this ditch. I was out of control of my car, I veered off to the left-hand side, bumped my head, unconscious and did two flip-overs in her car.

‘‘The car was an absolute write-off and thank God where I sat was the only part that was intact.

‘‘The farmer working in the paddock who saw everything came to my rescue. I was lucid, in and out of consciousness apparently but I don’t remember.’’

The farmer called emergency services, with an SES crew having to cut Angela from the wreckage — which was just 3km from her partner’s farm. 

‘‘The next thing I could remember was being pricked in my left arm and saying ‘ow’. I became alert to my surroundings then and was told I had been in a horrific car accident and was very lucky to be alive.’’

And while she made it out alive, the accident left her with a broken neck, fractured C1-C4 spinal cord, posterior cerebral artery strokes, pelvic bone, rib and a lumbar compression fractures.

She was flown to The Alfred intensive care unit where she had spinal fusion surgery and began fighting for her life.

‘‘I had six pins put into my neck then a complication happened in that first 24 hours. I developed a blood clot where they did that surgery and that threw off a couple of strokes right in that balance centre.

‘‘It was a bit touch and go for that first week. At the time, my prognosis was three outcomes. Either die, never walk again or be on life support forever.’’

After almost two weeks at The Alfred, Angela started her recovery and rehabilitation at Geelong Private Hospital, where she once worked as a registered nurse.

When she arrived at Geelong Private, Angela was still in a halo traction, unable to walk and had to be fed through a nasogastric tube.

‘‘I knew I could take it on and recover quickly so, together with my rehab team, we developed a targeted rehabilitation plan.’’

It started by walking around the corridors of the hospital, from a shuffle frame to a walking frame and eventually a walking stick.

‘‘Every day I would set a goal and walk the corridors of the hospital and clock up 24km. people thought I was nuts but I was so happy I could walk.

‘‘Every time someone would come to visit me, I would say ‘come on, let’s go for a walk’.’’

And once she mastered walking and her halo was removed after three months, her next challenge was running.

‘‘When I first walked without a walking stick it was like I had sea legs. It was a strange feeling,’’ she said.

‘‘When I did start jogging again, I would jog at the end of my bedhead and run on the spot and hold onto the pole of the bed for balance. So many little things I would do to help myself.

‘‘When I started running, I kept going to the side of the road so each time I ran I would rehabilitate myself and try to straighten up.’’

She has since competed in various running competitions all over Australia.

‘‘They believe my fitness — I was a jogger before the accident — saved me and helped me to get back to good health,’’ she said.

Unfortunately the accident has caused some permanent eyesight and hearing loss, requiring her to use a hearing aide, and affected her balance, recall and memory, meaning she can’t work as a nurse again.

‘‘Lots of good has come out of something not so good, but I do miss working as a nurse because that was my calling, looking after people,’’ she said.

‘‘But I’m a very positive person and I just keep thinking the good that has come out of it. I’m alive, I look at that side of it, none of my inabilities.’’

Her recovery has been described as ‘‘incredible’’, with doctors calling her ‘‘a miracle’’.

But Angela says she was just doing what needed to be done.

And not once did it enter her head that she wouldn’t be able to walk and run again.

‘‘I always thought I’m going to beat this. I wanted to go back to my life, my parents, my children and Craig. I just couldn’t give up,’’ she said. Angela knows the far-reaching effects of road trauma more than anyone. ‘‘The people who suffer more are your loved ones. They’re watching you from the sidelines and you’re unconscious and don’t know what’s going on.’’

And while Angela did everything right on that disastrous day, she has some crucial advice for motorists.

‘‘Check your motor vehicle. Make sure it’s roadworthy. Check the tyres, engine, water and windscreen to make sure it’s all working good,’’ she said.

‘‘Then check yourself. Have a good night’s sleep the night before, have water in the car, keep yourself hydrated.

‘‘If you start to feel drowsy, go to the side of the road and walk around the car. But the most important thing is to put that mobile away; because your life is more important than a mobile phone.’’