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Angel brought me to life twice before the ambulance arrived

When Tauranga woman Margaret Gundersen was in a horrific car accident, passers-by rushed to her aid, including a woman Margaret described as her “angel” for helping her. Margaret later discovered the woman’s name is Angel Mulu.

Margaret

I was on my way to pick up my grandson up from cadets at 8.50pm. I was going to turn into the shopping centre, so I was only going about 30-40 kilometres per hour. I saw these cars tearing down the street and then, all of a sudden, a big beast of a grill was coming straight at me.

The car that hit me was a Ford Ranger. They’re pretty high off the ground – that was the frightening part. I bore the brunt of the crash on the right-hand side of the car; he T-boned me. The car filled up with powder from the airbag. I just remember at the time of impact, gripping the wheel and saying, “Help, please help me.”

I have quite a strong faith and I believe the Lord sent me the right people at the right time. First, there was a man called Leon. He broke the window to release the powder, so I didn’t suffocate. Then Angel arrived. Leon told her my name and that he’d called an ambulance. Dear Angel stayed by my side until the ambulance got there and she brought me to life twice, I discovered later. I died twice before the ambulance arrived.

In the hospital, apparently I was wide awake for the first 24 hours and then they had to induce me into a coma because I was only breathing once every minute. I just remember the grill coming towards me and then waking up out of the coma nine days later.

The staff at ICU told my daughter it might be three-to-five months before I’d walk, let alone talk, and I was walking and talking within days of coming out of my coma. Even my family were blown away just how quick I have recovered, but I’m still not able to drive.

I’m hoping and praying that I can carry on the passion I have for driving. I love taking elderly people on excursions and driving them from A to B. I’ve driven all around New Zealand. And I used to be a bus driver. I’ve been driving for more than 50 years, since the age of 15. This is my first real accident and, looking at my car, I should have been dead.

I’ve still got a big brace around my neck. The independence has just gone; I’m reliant on others now, to take me shopping or to the doctors. I’m not used to that. I used to be the one doing the giving.

I ended up having six fractured teeth, eight broken ribs, a broken neck, two vertebrae in the lumbar, and a huge gash on my left leg. I’m going to be scarred inside and out for the rest of my life.

Words can’t describe how I feel about Leon and Angel. I’m very lucky and blessed to be alive. People like Leon and Angel do things out of kindness without even thinking about it.

Angel

Me and my sister were dropping a friend off to her work and we passed this accident scene and we all thought, “I wonder if they’re okay.” I turned around and went past more slowly and we saw how bad it was. It must have been within five minutes after it happened. Leon had just broken the window to see if she was alright when I turned up and he went to check on the person in the other car.

I was just leaning in through her window. I pretty much put half of me in there, holding her, checking if she was okay ’cos she wasn’t really responding. Before I got there, Leon had managed to get her name, so he told me she was called Margaret. As soon as I saw her, I never let her go. I was just trying to keep her talking, keep her awake. She wasn’t responding when we first got there and I kept lightly tapping her, asking if she was okay. When she woke up fully, I said, “Hi Margaret, you’ve been in a car crash. My name is Angel.”

She was calling out for her grandson. Me and my sister thought maybe there was a child in the car. My sister got in the car to look and, when she put the light on, we saw how bad it was. Part of the car was just on top of her and she was bleeding so much. I told my sister to turn the light off and we didn’t tell Margaret anything. She told us her grandson was at the army cadets and my sister took off to find him. As soon as she left, Margaret stopped responding. It was just me with her, I was hard out tapping her. I was shaking all the time but I just thought, “I’ve got to do what I can.”

I had done a Red Cross First Aid course a year previously and it really came back to me. In class you’d be not really listening, it drags on, but as soon as that happened, I remembered things. Margaret was moving her neck, saying how sore it was, and I knew it needed to be stabilised and was trying to hold her still. I was telling her I would stay with her and that we were getting her grandson, and that made her calm. I did think she might die because she did it twice to me, she stopped breathing. I was tapping her and yelling at her, saying, “You’re not going anywhere.” On one of those occasions, she woke up and asked me if I was a real angel.

When the ambulance arrived and the fire brigade started working on the car, I had to say goodbye. Her family were there by then and I knew she was in good hands. As soon as I walked away, I started freaking out, but when I was with her, I was calm. I’d like to think that anyone would stop and help like we did. Just driving through, you wouldn’t have known there was someone so badly injured in there, but it’s not hard to stop, take a closer look and see if there’s anything you can do.