Rodeo parents are some of the toughest people around, always ready to help should things take a turn for the worse.
But the roles were reversed at last month’s Carrieton Rodeo for a small group of parents, including Allendale North’s Ingrid Boers.
As Ms Boers’ daughters Emma and Lucy prepared for their competition, she headed over to have a chat with some friends under the shade of a tree.
What happened next was truly frightful and unpredictable.
As Ms Boers and her friend Bridget Woods sat chatting between the cars and swags, a shout went out.
“Next thing I looked around and Bridget was yelling at me, she went to run at me and said look out.
“I thought she was joking, because we joke around sometimes. But then I heard the crack and looked up and saw the tree … I just thought, that’s it, I’m gone, I can’t outrun it, it’s going to kill me.”
The tree fell on Ms Boers and her friend, thrusting them into darkness.
“All I could see was Bridget next to me, (I remember) she was lying on the ground curled in a ball; I tried to call her and she wouldn’t answer me … I thought she was dead.”
Ms Woods said she was sitting in her deck chair, doubled in half, with the tree over her back.
“I couldn't breathe or speak,” she said.
“I was just starting to go unconscious when Graham (a friend) lifted it just enough for me to suck in a breath of air.
“I thought I was going to die.”
As the two women lay trapped under the tree – Ms Boers with a branch pinned across her shoulder and neck, and across the back of Ms Woods – onlookers rushed to the scene.
“(Bridget’s) daughter India was screaming, there were heaps of people, but they didn’t know I was under there,” Ms Woods said.
“I heard them say ‘we need to lift this off Bridget’ and I knew if they lifted it, they were going to damage my shoulder more, or, if they had dropped it again accidentally, I would have been crushed.”
Adrenaline kicked in.
“I was just like, I gotta get out of here,” Ms Boers said.
“So I pushed and wiggled like you’re getting into a tight pair of jeans, l squeezed my way out of the main section and worked my way to the front of the tree.”
Once she had made her way to the edge of the tree, a man saw Ms Boers and pulled her out.
“He goes ‘are you alright?’; I just went ‘nup’ and collapsed on the ground, I said ‘my shoulder, I can’t breathe’.”
At that stage, the crowd of helpers had lifted the tree and extricated Ms Woods.
“They didn’t think there was much wrong with her, but she ended up going back to hospital the next day and she had three broken ribs,” Ms Boers said.
The four other parents were fortunate to escape with minor scratches and bruises.
While all of this was happening, Ms Boers’ daughters had been busily preparing to compete.
Lucy, 15, was saddling up, while Emma, 18, was getting changed.
“Someone said a tree’s just fallen on your mum – Emma just went running, stark naked with half a shirt on, half her pants undone … she’s just bolted!” Ms Boers laughed.
“She was so good, telling everyone what to do (when I was in pain).”
Ms Boers was transported from Carrieton to Port Augusta (hospital) for the night, and good friends took her daughters and their horses home that night.
The next morning, daughter Emma picked her up to go home.
“I got home and I just knew something was wrong, I couldn’t breathe,” Ms Boers said.
“Every time I sat forward it just felt like my shoulder was falling out. I rang Lyell McEwin (Hospital) and talked to one of the nurses, she assessed me on the phone and said yep, you gotta get in here now.”
Ms Boers spent the day in emergency until scans came through at about 4pm and doctors realised the severity of her injuries.
As well as a broken rib, her sternum had been broken near where it joins the collarbone – and a bone fragment was ‘sticking out’ right next to her main artery.
The doctors said they hadn’t ever seen such a complicated break, and Ms Boers was sent to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, where conferences were held to decide how to proceed.
“They didn’t know whether to operate or not because it was a catch 22: if they operated they had to open my chest up and then I could have had permanent nerve damage or bled to death, because it was just so close,” Ms Boers said.
Ultimately, doctors decided to shelve the operation – the bone fragment was more rounded than sharp, and the risks of operation were too high – and after five days, Ms Boers was discharged.
She will return for scans to assess whether the bone fragment is secure; if not, an operation may still be on the cards.
“It’s just a freak accident – I’m lucky to be alive,” she said.
“I honestly thought my time was up.
“We were both in chairs, I think I must have tried to run – my chair was totally destroyed.
“If I had been in my chair I probably would have been killed.”