Christchurch earthquake survivor wants to go home

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 25/03/2011
Hamish Coleman-Ross

Jane Taylor was seriously injured in the Christchurch earthquake, from her hospital bed she shares her memories of the quake and her rescue. By Hamish Coleman-Ross. Quake footage: Daniel Tobin

JANE TAYLOR: Still in Wellington ICU.
RICHARD COSGROVE
JANE TAYLOR: Has been in hospital since she was pulled from the rubble at a Cashel Mall bakery after the February 22 quake.

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Tears flowed as Jane Taylor watched dramatic footage for the first time of her agonising wait to be rescued from the horror of the Christchurch earthquake.

Yesterday she and husband Shaun watched the scenes that she said were "just overwhelming".

Mrs Taylor, 52, was "bent like a staple" by a falling concrete slab at Cashel Mall on February 22. She was flown to Wellington Hospital in a critical condition 12 hours later and has been there since.

But her remarkable progress was obvious yesterday as she told her harrowing story from her hospital bed, where she is recovering from life-threatening injuries that included a collapsed lung, fractures to her skull, spine, ribs, pelvis and foot, and a face mashed almost beyond recognition.

"I guess I'm a strong old bird who will live to tell another story on another day," she said.

And that day will be in the Garden City. "I still love Christchurch. It is a scary place, but it is home."

She recalled being in a Cashel Mall fashion shop, where she was manager, when the earthquake hit.

"The bakery upstairs started to fall through so I said to my co-worker, `We've got to get out of here, let's go.'

"She managed to get out into the centre of Cashel Mall but I didn't. I ... was caught under the awning. The building was really coming down. A big piece of wall fell on me and it put me on my backside and bent me like a staple."

An off-duty lifeguard lifted debris off Mrs Taylor and got her to a bench seat in the mall. "I was in tremendous agony. I had a collapsed lung and skull fracture so I found it very difficult to breathe and sit. And, of course, there was still mayhem all around.

"[And] I did have a huge gash in my face that was bleeding profusely. The lifesaver guy ... gave me his T-shirt to try and stem the blood."

The video footage she was shown yesterday was shot with Press journalist Olivia Carville, who, by coincidence, is a family friend. Ms Carville said yesterday that, when she came across Mrs Taylor, her facial injuries were so bad that she recognised her only through her jewellery.

"When I looked a second time at her, she said, `Libby'. That's when everything just stopped and all the chaos around me almost went silent as I realised, `Oh my God, it's Jane'."

She tried to comfort Mrs Taylor, but knew her words had a hollow ring. "No-one was coming. How do you tell someone help is on the way when it's not?

"It was such a helpless situation and being there with someone you love was like a nightmare scene from a movie."

Luckily, Mr Taylor had been at a meeting in the nearby town hall and made a beeline for his wife. She says he saved her life.

"He saved me really because he sat behind me and wrapped himself around me to give me some support so I could breathe."

Mrs Taylor knew she had a smashed pelvis and broken foot and that walking anywhere was out of the question. "A policewoman in a car managed to get through ... Two of the [rescue] workers, with Shaun's help, dragged me into this police car.

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"She [the policewoman] got me through to the hospital. I remember getting into the hospital and being transferred on one of their stretcher beds."

A week later, she woke up in Wellington Hospital's intensive care unit, where she struggled to come to grips with the tragedy.

"While I was in ICU, I had some pretty major hallucinations. So I had to work out in my head what was hallucination and what was true."

She has endured operations on her spine, ankle and face but is on the mend. "My recovery is slow and there is still a long way to go. But they [medical staff] are confident I will walk because I can move my limbs.

"It is a bit hard to be confident when you can't put weight on them [feet]. Time will tell."

Ms Carville said she was full of admiration for Mrs Taylor.

"My eyes are filling with tears that she has found her old self. It is the best news I've had in four weeks."

Mrs Taylor said she wanted to thank hospital staff, friends, family and wellwishers around the world for the flood of gifts, flowers and messages of support.

- The Dominion Post

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