10 May 2023

Cape York crash survivor thanks medical team

| Cape York Weekly
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A WOMAN who was facing becoming a quadriplegic after a horror crash in Cape York, has expressed her extreme gratitude to Cairns Hospital clinicians for helping her walk again.

Pormpuraaw resident Subrina Crawley was one of five people inside a four-wheel drive when it rolled over on a dirt road near Laura earlier this year.

Subrina’s 12-year-old daughter and another passenger from the vehicle had to walk 25km to get emergency assistance.

Subrina was severely injured and flown to Cairns Hospital for treatment of multiple fractures of her spine.

“I had extensive injuries to my spinal cord, and the front of my neck,” she said.

“I also had head trauma with a big cut on my right side, a shattered scapula, and my whole left side was badly battered and bruised with minor cuts throughout.

“At one point, I was told I may never walk again.”

Cairns Hospital spinal surgeon Dr Deborah Lees said Subrina had been moving all her limbs upon arrival at the hospital, but had started to have altered sensation in her arms, and was about to lose feeling and function in her hands.

“We first had to apply skull tongs and traction to re-align all of Subrina’s dislocated joints,” she said.

“This was a high-risk procedure, as she could have become paralysed if the surgery had not been done properly, or with the utmost care.”

Subrina spent more than two months in Cairns Hospital where she underwent five separate medical procedures – including three major surgeries.

This involved the removal of severely damaged cervical disks and vertebrae, replacing them with a special metal cage with bone graft, which was secured with a plate.

“These were all complex and complicated surgeries fraught with the risk of paralysing her at any time if anything went wrong,” Dr Lees said.

“But she was a star patient, did all her rehab and was very thorough in her post-op care.”

Since then, Subrina has not only been able to walk again, but has also been able to recommence work in September.

Dr Lees said it was not long ago that anyone with complex spinal injuries would need to be transferred to a major centre such as Townsville or Brisbane for care.

“This would condemn them to a long transfer, the risk of suffering an injury in transit, significant delays to theatre, and also being far away from friends and family at such a stressful time,” she said.

“I think we should be very proud as a hospital that we have the capacity to offer care of this nature to our communities, and ensure they can receive exactly what they need, even though many live in remote areas.

“Injuries can be life changing with wide-reaching repercussions, but for me, the ability to help people make a good recovery and regain function is the best job in the world.”

Subrina said she was extremely grateful that Dr Lees and other highly skilled clinicians were able to help her back on her feet.

“If it wasn’t for Debbie and her quick thinking in the operating theatre, I don’t think I would be here,” she said.

“When something bad happens, like what I went through, we need highly skilled surgeons like Dr Debbie and her team to be available as soon as possible.”

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