Devastating development moments after Aussie mum celebrates win

Vesna Andric and her Tathra Surf Lifesaving Club women’s team were stoked after winning their leg in the George Bass Surfboat Marathon on the NSW South Coast.

Exhilarated but exhausted, they started making their way back to shore, rowing their 300kg surfboat into Horseshoe Bay at Bermagui.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Horrifying moment Vesna is pinned under surfboat.

For more Health & Wellbeing related news and videos check out Health & Wellbeing>>

It was something they had done many times before.

But on January 4, the unthinkable happened.

The boat’s sweep – a team member who helps steer – was knocked off and thrown into the water.

“With the ocean being what she is, you can’t underestimate her,” mother-of-one Vesna tells 7Life.

“The boat started to lose control and it slew, which means that it kind of started to veer in sideways, so it was now sideways to the waves that were crashing.”

Vesna was pinned underneath the 300kg boat, suffering horrific injuries. Credit: Supplied

Vesna’s teammates were also hurled from the boat, with Vesna the last to be ejected.

“The boat was picked up by a wave on the shoreline and that was then slammed into me,” the 45-year-old says.

“So with the force of the wave, the boat lifted and slammed into me, smashing me into the sand.”

Vesna was now pinned underneath the water by the 300kg surfboat.

“It was a stunning feeling – I knew I was in trouble,” she describes.

“It was just almost an instant kind of numbness and it was huge.

“It felt like something reverberating and I knew when I was rolling around under the water and I said to myself in my head, ‘You’re in trouble’.”

The sweep standing up steering the boat. Credit: Supplied

The ordeal played out in front of dozens of onlookers.

Members of the Tathra men’s team raced to help Vesna, who had managed to heave out the words, “My back”.

“They immediately went into action, managing the situation,” she says.

“Some of … the Tathra men’s team are paramedics. There’s also a doctor on standby at the beach watching.

“I could hear people calling out ‘Spinal’ and they retrieved the equipment they needed and got me up to safety and just supported me.

“I had my teammates coming to my aid, soothing and comforting me.

“That helped to keep me feeling safe until the ambulance arrived.”


Once the ambulance arrived on the beach, it was clear Vesna’s injuries were significant.

Paramedics were forced to call in a rescue helicopter.

She was taken to Canberra where MRI and CT scans showed the extent of the damage to her body.

Vesna is at ‘ground zero’, learning to sit up in bed and walk – with support. Credit: Supplied

Vesna had suffered five broken ribs as well as a dislocated rib, a punctured lung and internal bleeding.

Even worse – her pelvis was snapped and crushed, her spine was detached from her pelvis, and her spine was fractured in numerous places.

Her “spine wings” had also snapped.

She needed major surgery.

In the early hours of the next morning, Vesna was flown to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney where a surgeon was preparing to reattach her spine.

An x-ray showing the plates and screws in Vesna’s pelvis and spine. Credit: Supplied

The complex surgery was successful and Vesna has praised the work of medical staff who helped her conquer all the hurdles thrown her way.

“The nursing staff, the medical teams, are really exceptional,” she says.

“They work so hard and they maintain their kindness and tenderness, even through the exhaustion. It’s really exemplary.

“They’re absolute heroes. I’ve got heaps of respect and a lot of gratitude.”

Vesna spent days in ICU before being transferred to the orthopedic ward.

Ground zero

Her devastating injuries have meant the vibrant mum has had to start from “ground zero”.

Mostly bedridden, she is now having to learn how to sit up in bed and can only walk for up to five minutes with the assistance of a walking frame and two physiotherapists.

“I can’t reach over to grab a juice or a water, someone has to pass it to me,” she says.

“Much of my lower body is still numb.

“I can’t really do anything for myself.”

The mum of one will return to Canberra for rehabilitation. Credit: Supplied

This isn’t holding Vesna back, however, as she continues to push herself.

“(One day) I sat in the wheelchair to the point of pain,” she says.

“I did physio until my blood pressure dropped to point of feeling faint and did more in the bed.”

But it was too much, and the next day her body “shut down”.

“I couldn’t leave the bed – at times I couldn’t even sit up on an angle,” she says.

“My back feels like someone has replaced the entire mid-section with an aching steel plate.

“The stiffness is impenetrable. I was weak, my head was spinning and there was a throbbing pulsing through my entire body.”

Vesna’s community

The brave mum isn’t alone, having had someone by her side every step of the way.

As she works to recover, she has been inundated with love and care from her community.

“I’ve got a friend here right now cleaning things, packing my drawer, buying me books, just supporting me, being here, talking to me,” Vesna says.

The support from Vesna’s community is helping her to push through. Credit: Supplied

Her daughter Sinead, 23, has also rallied.

“She’s been fantastic and she’s been really brave, and it’s been really tough for her to see me in this kind of condition,” Vesna says.

“She’s strong and I’m proud of her … and we’re going to get through this together.”

It’s the love from Vesna’s community that she says is helping propel her to recovery.

“The love is just motivating me. It’s given me such an eagerness and a thriving to get back out there,” she says.

“It’s kind of filled my spirits with this sense of emotional and psychological safety, which has given me the strength to be able to focus on my recovery physically.”

Giving back

Her community has even stepped up to help Vesna’s mum, who was under Vesna’s care.

“People have been going home and looking after my mum for me, and the surf club have been offering to help with any kind of work that needs doing for her,” she says.

All Vesna wants to do is give back to everyone who has helped her along the way.

“I just want to get better so I can get back on my feet and return all this love and care and contribute to my community,” she says.

Vesna had started a new job before the accident. Credit: Supplied

Despite her circumstance, she has continued to study and prepare for her new job, which she started before the accident – directly helping victims of domestic violence.

“I can’t wait to get back to work,” she says.

“My mind is still sharp, I can still think, I’m reading these books, I’m watching these documentaries.

“I’ve been mulling this over and looking at the research and deeply understanding the complexities of (domestic violence) and how we as a community and society can start moving forward to address these issues.

“That is a big part of wanting to get back to work – wanting to get back to that kind of support to the community.”

Recovery and rehab

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Vesna’s ongoing recovery and rehabilitation.

“It’s really touched my heart,” she says of the fundraiser created by friends.

“It’s kind of a reassurance, too, because I really don’t know what kinds of changes (I might have to make) to the way that I live, what this all means, and what it means for treatment and rehabilitation.

“I guess that GoFundMe kind of answers those questions where it’s a security, safety buffer for me.

“It sort of says to me, ‘Hey if I’ve got to do some stuff, I can’.”

A GoFundMe has been set up for Vesna’s recovery. Credit: Supplied

Vesna’s sharing spirit also continues to shine – if any funds are left over from the GoFundMe by the end of the journey ahead, she plans to give them back to the community.

“If it so happens that I’m back on my feet and there’s money left, that’s going to go back into my community,” she says.

“I’ve spoken to my friends about how we could give out grants to other people if it turns out I don’t need rehab.”

Next stage

Vesna will spend several more weeks at Royal North Shore before being transferred to Canberra for rehabilitation, which is projected to take about 18 months.

Vesna before the accident. Credit: Supplied

In six months, she will head back to RNS to have the plates and screws in her pelvis and spine removed.

“I still cry with gratitude at the kindness and care of every single human beside me,” Vesna says.

“From the moment I was rescued in the water, to this very day, there would at least have to be 100 people.

“From friends to strangers on the beach, paramedics, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, tending to the rooms and bringing meals.

“All these people caring for another person.

“There’s something to be said for the culture and decent nature of our communities.”

For more engaging lifestyle content, visit 7Life on Facebook.

Incredible moment a family spots their son lost at sea.

Incredible moment a family spots their son lost at sea.

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