Like most little girls, Emma Booth’s one wish was for a pony.
And like so many parents, it was one that was impossible to grant. For years their daughter galloped around the house on her wooden stick toy horse.
When she heard about a competition to win a pony, she dialled the number so often her fingers hurt, but, it worked.
The Booth family quickly discovered she had an aptitude for riding and she was soon competing around the country.
It was an event in Albury in April 2013 that put Victorian university student Emma, on the road the night a truck jackknifed, hitting two cars. Inside one, was Emma.
The flash of headlights was all she saw before she blacked out. She woke to rescuers reassuring her, a barking dog and the worse sound of all: the cries of one of the distressed horses.
The woman in the second car died, but the girls had survived, just.
Doctors at the Royal Melbourne Hospital discovered Emma had a bleed on her brain, a fractured skull, sternum, collarbone and ankle, a shattered spine, a punctured lung and life-threatening abdominal injuries.
When Emma was off life support, she made hand signals at her nurse, Michelle Spence, to imitate walking.
“I told her she was safe, but that her injury was so severe that she was unlikely to ever walk again, but I think she already knew,” Ms Spence said.
“Her second question was whether she would ever ride again and with her determination, I had no doubt that she would.”
But nobody expected it to be so soon. Within four months, Emma, now 23, was back on a horse.
Two years after the accident Emma is training for the Paralympic Games in Rio.
Riding is different nowadays. Balancing can be a challenge. She uses a whip and voice commands to guide the horse’s movements. But the rush that comes from moving as one with an animal is even better than before.
“I try to focus my mind on feeling lucky. I might not have survived the accident, if my injury was higher in the spine I may not have been able to ride and I may never have been going to Rio,” she said.
Emma is supporting the hospital’s fundraiser, to buy vital equipment for their new ICU.
Ms Spence, who is also the project manager for the new ICU, is imploring Victorians to help.
“Life can change in a split second, you just never know when you will need the ICU,” she said.
Reproduced with kind permission of the Herald Sun