News feature, August 24, 2005
Louise Yaxley Media Conference, Launceston, Tasmania
Having birthday cake with mother Annette and father Brian in a German hospital is a long way from Penguin in Tasmania, and after wanting to be home for so long Louise Yaxley finally returned to familiar shores on Sunday morning. To her this was a major step in her recovery.
After suffering horrific injuries in the AIS Womens' team cycling tragedy in Germany last month, Louise Yaxley has returned home to Tasmania. In Launceston today she held a media conference at the Silverdome, a track that has seen her development and courage in the sport rise to becoming a well liked and feared competitor on the bike.
In an emotional opening for all. Yaxley, with Paul Brosnan from the Tasmania Institute of Sport beside her, thanked everyone for the support she had received from all over the country and in particular Tasmania. She especially thanked the doctors who had treated her in Germany and holding back the tears she spoke of her boyfriend Mark Padget being at her bedside within two days of the accident.
"The support from family members and close friends has been amazing", she said. "I would like to make a special mention of the support from the town I grew up in - Penguin, on the coast, and where I am now based in Launceston"
Yaxley spoke of her extensive injuries and her concern when doctors at the first hospital she arrived at, contemplated amputating her right arm to the elbow. Moving to another hospital, a limb specialist operated on Louise and saved her arm. Yaxley paid tribute to medical staff in Germany, saying, "I owe a lot to the German doctors; I wouldn't be here without them and their immediate support on the scene."
Yaxley has some memories from the accident but chose not to comment on them, saying that all reports on it were similar to what had actually happened. "It's about accepting the situation and dealing with it, that's my attitude" was her response.
"It was a freakish accident and we were jut in the wrong place at the wrong time". Yaxley explained. Not only does she have to come to terms with her own injuries but with the loss of a close friend and team-mate Amy Gillett. "Amy was an amazing woman with a love of life; her love of life and all it could offer stand as an example worth following" Yaxley said of her lost team-mate.
She spoke of the 'Amy Gillett Foundation' which has been established by Amy's family and Cycling Australia, supporting female cyclists and promoting projects aimed at road safety amongst cyclists and motorists.
When asked about the apology from the driver in Germany Yaxley paused and said that she hadn't actually realised that there had been an apology. " It's being dealt with in Germany so that's fine" she said.
Yaxley returns to hospital next week to have an operation to remove some wires. After this she will begin to know just how much movement she'll regain. With so many injuries and constant physiotherapy taking it's toll, Yaxley says that plenty of rest is required, "I'm just taking one day at a time and trying to recover by resting up." she said
"I have small goals that I seem to achieve everyday - two days ago I was able to hold a phone for the first time. I don't know how long it [the recovery] will be; I just have to rest and wait and use the daily goals to keep me motivated and it will depend on my wrist after the last operation."
A team-mate from the accident and the last to leave hospital in Germany with Yaxley, Alexis Rhodes, has a long term goal of power walking with Prime Minister John Howard. Yaxley however, doesn't see that for herself but would like to see Carlton play a game in the AFL. "I did receive a letter from the Carlton Football Club and if I had the chance to see them or watch them that would be a bit of a bonus".
Smaller goals can be often taken for granted, but with fish'n'chips being scarce in Italy or Germany Yaxley was looking forward to her first dinner back home. "I was always caught saying my first meal is going to be fish'n' chips and that's what I had for tea Sunday night and it was fabulous". She was glad to be home.
When asked about riding on the road again Yaxley explained that she was a long way from returning to the sport she loves. "It's quite a few months of that [recovery] before I will be able to actually hop on the road - I'll address that when I have to - I'm positive right now and that's what I'm looking forward to, so we'll keep our fingers crossed."
Out of this tragedy will come strength and unity and hopefully a better world on the road for our cyclists. Louise Yaxley is positive and dealing with life as it is dealt, and knows how fortunate she is to maybe one day roll along the back roads of Launceston again.
"I'm lucky to be here, I remind myself everday," she added after her statement.