Thu, Nov 25, 2021 6:00 AM

Lea getting back on her feet

Lea Wallrab in the car she lived in after being injured in a ski accident. Photo: Jenny Nicholson.

Jenny Nicholson

Lea’s day off didn’t end up as planned, and neither did her OE.

A ski tour with fellow Rainbow ski instructors ended with a trip to the emergency department for Lea Wallrab. It was the start of a few tough months.

Her ski got caught in heavy snow and she fell, badly twisting her knee.

"It dislocated and then popped back in when I fell down on it,” she says. “That was on 25 September.”

After an x-ray she was told her knee wasn’t broken and sent home with the advice to go to physio or see her GP if she needed further follow up. But Lea knew something wasn’t right, that’s when things got tricky for the 22-year-old on a working visa from Germany.

She was told she couldn’t have an appointment with a specialist until she had an MRI and that wasn’t possible for about five weeks. No longer able to work, her days revolved around doing the exercises her physio had given her.

She was living in her car and says that’s something she could usually enjoy, but with her injured knee climbing in and out of the car and moving things around was hard.

“The exercises and workout itself I did every day was exhausting enough,” says Lea. “To live in a car is another challenge on top of that. But I still loved it.”

When she finally had an MRI, it showed bruising to the bone, two tears in the meniscus and a torn ACL.

She felt desperate that even after hearing that, she couldn’t get an appointment until the end of November.

“It was so hard not knowing how bad my knee is.”

Going home to Germany to be treated more quickly wasn’t an option.

“In Bavaria it doesn’t look good,” she says.

“Surgery is all cancelled because there are no doctors available.”

Lea says the hardest thing is to be positive every day.

“I know every day of my life is amazing because of the people around me,” she says.

“But it can be a real challenge to find positive things every day.”

Things hit a low when her car broke down. Stranded in Tahuna, she texted anyone she knew in Nelson.

The mother of one of her ski instructor colleagues picked her up, invited her to stay with them and gave her the use of a car to get to physio appointments.

She says that made a difference to her days.

Next, she finally had a call from ACC.

“The ACC man was a lovely guy and apologized for not getting in touch earlier,” she says.

He organised for her to fly to Christchurch to see a surgeon last Tuesday where was told she would have to wait for surgery as her knee wasn’t ready. She was told the next appointment for surgery would be the end of February.

Lea knows there will be a lengthy period of recovery, so her trip to New Zealand is going to look vastly different from her plans.