Head impaled on fence in crash, Dunedin woman tells of recovery

It has been 30 years since Mel Marshall’s head was impaled on a fence.
She knows all too well the lasting impacts a crash can have — the consequences affect her life every day.

On June 17, 1990, Marshall (now 48) was in a single-vehicle crash on Three Mile Hill Rd in which another passenger died. Marshall was thrown 33m from the car, which was travelling about 160kmh, after it hit a power pole.

She spent five months in Dunedin Hospital and six months in Wakari Hospital’s rehabilitation ward.

More than a year of daily visits to Wakari Hospital followed that.

And pain — plenty of pain.

Now each day is an effort to keep herself moving forward, figuratively and literally.

Her injuries affected her walking, and her speech.

She swims and has physio each week.

“I had to learn everything again,” she said.

“The pain was just … I’m a lot better, but it’s still there.”

There was also grief, for the parts of her life she could no longer lead. And she lost some friends she had at the time of the crash.

Her mother, Robyn Dick, said at times during her rehabilitation her daughter would work so hard she would go into shock.

“She just wanted to push through.”

The crash did not affect only Marshall — her parents, family and friends were all involved.

Marshall is frustrated by road safety messages not getting through to people.

“Speeding kills.”

Brain Injury Otago liaison officer Cathy Matthews said a lot of young people did not think about the ripple effect of a crash.

“They don’t understand that this could happen to them and their family,” she said.


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