It is fair to say that the lives of Suzi Merson and her family changed forever on February 3, 2017.
A car crash as she drove from work in Havelock North to home in Paki Paki could almost not have been worse. The only positive out of it was that she was alive; just.
Now her friends in the close-knit community where she had her art framing business are pulling out all the stops to raise funds to help her make the most of her much-altered life journey.
If her accident has taught this busy, positive, giving woman something, it is how to receive. And it is harder than it sounds, she says.
“I know it sounds odd; but it really is easier to give. But I have had to learn to accept and there have been so many people who have given their time and energy, right from all of the emergency services on that afternoon and my wonderful family and friends, to the medical staff who have put me back together and are helping me get on my feet.”
To thank them all, the family held an open day at their home in April, inviting all involved in for something to eat and to show them how well Suzie was doing.
“Some of them I was meeting for the first time, as I couldn’t remember them from the accident.”
With one leg amputated below the knee, the other looking “like a shark ate it”, a dozen other broken bones and internal injuries from the force of seatbelt, there is a lot to get used to.
But Suzi is determined to get on with life. “I don’t really choose to be this positive; it really is just my nature. This is just a bit of a detour in our lives – we are close to getting back on the main road again.”
She has her prosthetic leg and is busy practicing on it; looking forward to the time when the shiny new wheelchair ramps up to the doors of her home can be taken away for good.
“I did think that I would be able to put the leg on and be walking straight away, but it is not as simple as that,” she laughs.
Husband Rick is just very glad Suzi is still around. The accident was incredibly traumatic for him and the couple’s three adult children, not least because he was away on a fishing trip off Mahia and had to be brought back in a police car relay. He was picked up from the shore by Mahia police which were met half way by a Hastings car.
“They were brilliant. I was fully aware that the situation was very bad but they just kept talking to me about anything and everything to try and keep my mind off it – I can’t thank them enough.
“We so very nearly lost her; and I will never forget how hard everyone worked to save her. There were many times when we were super-scared.”
One of the family’s lucky breaks was that the Hastings fire crew were heading out to a practice at the time of the accident, and were only minutes away when the call came in. “They go there super-fast. With the amount of blood she was losing from her severed leg, I believe that speed made all the difference,” Rick said.
The business is now sold, “to a really lovely couple”, after oldest daughter Abbey and her husband Shane took over its management after the accident.
“The kids have been brilliant,” said Suzi. Abbey and Shane have taken over looking after the business, Tilly has devoted herself to nursing her mum, and Jesse, who lives in Australia, has provided practical and moral support. All three have an arty bent and are provided a piece each to the auction.
Even Suzi is contributing – her business has been doing the framing of the works. “All these wonderful artists, many of whom I’ve worked with over the 15 years we’ve had the business, have donated works. Framing them is the least we can do.”
The auction has been organised by a group of Havelock North business people. Advintage’s John Macpherson (Mac) said the decision to help Suzi out was easy. “She has been our [business] next door neighbor for years. When one of the team falls you do what you can to pick them up. This is one of those times.
“The response has been phenomenal but I’m not surprised. She is such a bright, bubbly person. Everyone helping a little bit adds up to a lot of help.”