My name is Lee-Anne or Annie-Lee if you like. 4.5 years ago I was a “beer drinking, bike riding, Bulls supporting, chopper flying chick”. And then I had an accident. Like everything I do in life, I did it properly, and broke practically everything I could, in one go.

The doctors weren’t sure if I would live through the weekend, let alone walk again. But here I am entered for my first ever triathlon…

To understand why I have this desire to finish a triathlon you need to understand some of what I went through.

Some of my injuries included broken sternum, cracked ribs, collapsed lung and shattered L4 vertebrae. I had to have spinal disc replacement surgery and spent a year in rehab, learning to walk again.

And now…well now I’m a “beer drinking, bike riding, slightly broken chick”. The difference is the bike is a bicycle and not a motorbike.

I’ve had a few people asking me what really happened. There are two parts to that story. The accident itself and my injuries.

Let’s start with the accident itself. Basically, I parked out of wind (bad thing for a chopper), but it was due to people running across the helipad. I lost control on take-off, as the chopper turned faster than expected. I tried to fly out of it and couldn’t so instead of swimming, I crashed into the ground. I apparently hit the ground with 16 G (the chopper took 14 of that and I took the rest). My 4-strap harness didn’t work and I was thrown into the controls and half way out the door. At this stage I finally passed out. I was later told that it took the paramedics 45 minutes to stabilize me (after they had to cut me out – the half that was still in the chopper) and they took me to hospital.

Now onto my injuries.

I woke up after five days of induced coma. I had a broken sternum, cracked ribs, collapsed lung, broken wrist, head injury and had shattered my L4 vertebrae (It was gone. Totally gone, like the spare sock from the washing machine.) I had also lost the use of my right leg (due to the L4 being shattered). I was later told that they couldn’t operate on me on the first night as they thought I was having a heart attack as well, due to the cardiac enzymes. The next day they had to do emergency surgery to try fix my spine, as they were worried I would be permanently paralyzed if they didn’t go in and remove the floating bits and pieces of vertebrae.

There’s a lot more to it, but to sum it up I spent a year in rehab (in a foreign country, alone) learning to walk again and basically waiting for my body to heal and be able to move. The rehab included weekly visits to the hospital for updated x-rays etc, so they could monitor my recovery.

And I have pretty much been in recovery mode ever since.

Swimming was part of my rehab and a year after I was allowed to go home, I successfully completed the Sun City 1-mile swim.

A year after that, I was allowed to cycle and went on to complete the Lormar MTB 3-day stage race, Fairtree MTB Challenge and the Standford MTB 2-day stage race.

In the last 2-3 months I have been allowed to start running. So, I got this bright idea of completing a triathlon. I mean, I can swim and cycle and now I’m allowed to run. How hard can it be, right? And anyway, what else is an unemployed girl who can only sit for 45 minutes at a time supposed to do.

That’s where Old School Group came in. The team behind the Hi-Tec Walkerbay Xtreme managed to secure a triathlon entry for me and I have set completing the swim, cycle, run as my goal for 2019.

I had always taken my health for granted (as one does), and I still have days where I forget how broken I am. I can’t explain how difficult it is to go from being a healthy person who used to skydive, bungy jump, fly helicopters and pretty much do any idiotic adrenalin-based thing, to not being able to even sit up on your own. To-date I still can’t bend or arch my back and silly things like packing an overnight bag hurts so badly I have to lie down for a while.

Still, I have achieved more than was ever imagined possible and this crazy triathlon idea has got me even more motivated! I cannot wait for the moment I cross that finish line in April.

What drives YOU to #FindYourXtreme? Find out this April…

The team behind the WBX would love to hear from you. Send your story to
jamie@oldschoolgroup.co.za