An Ulladulla woman, who survived a harrowing crash on the Kings Highway, says she will be indebted forever to those who have helped put her life back together.
On March 4, 2018 Elise Woodcock was returning home from Canberra. She had dropped her youngest son off at the bus, which was taking him to his boarding school in Jindabyne.
Leaving about 6pm, her sister Denise Pappas and brother-in-law Dr Con Pappas expected her to return about 9pm.
But, she never returned that night. The mother-of-three had veered off a notorious stretch of the Kings Highway about one kilometre west of the Northangera Road intersection, east of Braidwood.
Denise and Con phoned hospitals, alerted police, but nobody knew where Elise was.
The next morning, Toby, a driver for Bunnings in Batemans Bay, was making his regular trip to Canberra.
About 7.45am he noticed the scrub on the left-side of the highway looked disturbed and saw the glint of a car.
"He thought that's really weird, there's something not right about it," Elise said.
Toby parked further along the road before he trudged down the ravine.
"The car was semi upside down on its roof and I was in there. 'Honestly, you looked dead', he told me."
Toby called Triple-0 to report a death, Elise said. He began to remove the windshield and in doing so he caused the glass to crackle and heard a sign of life.
"He said I groaned when there was a crackling and he almost jumped out of his skin, I was a purply blue colour," Elise said.
Elise, who returned to the Illawarra from Saudia Arabia in 2017, does not remember any of the accident.
She learned of the frantic moments after meeting Toby later on. The items in her handbag were strewn over the car and the good Samaritan learned her name.
"He said he got in and held me, held my hand," she said. He thought her arm was amputated.
"He kept saying, 'It's OK Elise, help is coming, you're alive,'," she said.
"He kept talking to me, telling me I was registered nurse and registered midwife. He did whatever he had to do."
Elise was taken to Canberra Hospital and admitted on the Monday. She suffered a fractured skull, fractured pelvis, fractured ribs, a fracture to her right leg, a bleed on the brain and five lung clots.
"When found the paramedics said my Glasgow Coma Score was 3. I recognise I am truly lucky to be alive," Elise said.
Con said the Tuesday was looking "very negative". Blood had blocked up from the bleed in her head and doctors suggested she needed to go back to theatre. They waited six hours to see if she would wake.
"They took her back to the theatre," Con said.
"We were not feeling good about things, the fact she hadn't woken up."
Within 15 minutes of returning from theatre, Elise woke up.
"I said to her, 'Can you wiggle your right big toe?'," Con said.
"And she was wiggling it. When she moved her big toe and she was actively obeying commands, we thought this is good."
A week later Elise was singing Queen hit Bohemian Rhapsody with "pizzazz". She spent a month in Canberra before five months at Liverpool Hospital's brain injury rehabilitation unit.
About 18 months on from the accident Elise has ongoing double vision and feels pain in her right arm.
"Some things you just have to live with. I would really love the hardware removed, I can't even put a seatbelt over this arm," she said.
Now she is set to enter the City2Surf on August 11.
"My physiotherapist, John Nguyen, suggested I could aim to run this year's City2Surf as I previously ran marathons. I have always wanted to do this and I'm always ready for a challenge, I thought it would be a great goal for me to strive towards in my recovery," she said.
John and her friend Joanne Talenta from Wollongong will join her. Due to her vision Tony Durand from Achilles Australia will also assist.
Apart from preparing for the 14-kilometre run, Elise has also penned a memoir. She has found the writing and editing experience invaluable for reviving memories.
"I started to document when I started a story and when I finished. By the time I finished the entire thing, it took over a month per little story, by the time all my memories came back.
"[Editing] is something I want to do because it helps my brain organise and remember what came when."
She is also undertaking work experience at Milton Family Medical Practice in the hope of maintaining her registration. Elise said she cherishes the support of Denise and Con.
" I will always be indebted not just to Con and Denise, but to Toby and Lifetime Care."