The Hunter community has rallied in support of an Aberdare woman who was left permanently disabled after a car crash.
Renae Nichols suffered a torn carotid artery when a car slammed into the rear of her vehicle in Argenton on May 23, 2012.
She had to learn to walk and talk again, and has suffered a number of strokes since the accident.
A single mum-of-two, Ms Nichols has had numerous hospital stays and can no longer work.
She has also been diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome – despite being born and raised in Cessnock, she woke after the incident with an Irish accent.
While the accident occurred four years ago, Ms Nichols and her family had kept their struggles to themselves until recently.
Her daughter Jessinta, 17, started a Facebook page to raise awareness of the dangers of unsafe driving.
Fairfax Media reported earlier this week that the other motorist involved in the crash was charged with negligent driving.
Jessinta and a family friend contacted New-FM, and the Novos breakfast team surprised Ms Nichols with new household items including a fridge, vacuum cleaner and heater. The radio station has also helped spearhead the driver awareness campaign.
After hearing the story on New-FM, local miner Paul Newman put the idea of making a donation to the family to his workmates at Rix’s Creek.
The lodge unanimously supported the motion, and handed over a $2000 cheque at the miners’ union office at Aberdare on June 23.
Mr Newman said the Rix’s Creek lodge is calling on other mine lodges to show their support, and also to remember the importance of safety on the roads.
“We all need to reflect and change what we do,” he said.
The Nichols family have also received support from Cessnock West school, the Mount View Leos and Coles. They have been overwhelmed by the attention but have been happy to share their story if it makes an impact on driver behaviour.
“We didn’t talk about it for four years, we just got on with it,” Ms Nichols said.
Ms Nichols said she came to peace with the consequences of the crash a long time ago. And while her health problems continue, she is philosophical about her situation – as it all could have been so much worse.
“I’m still breathing; I get to tell my kids I love them,” Ms Nichols said.
“There’s no use curling up in a ball and saying ‘poor me’. You just get on with life.”
Hunter Highway Patrol supervisor Senior Sergeant Tony Grace warned against distractions behind the wheel, in a Fairfax Media report earlier this week.
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