It will be eight years ago this November since Hayley Walker-Ross, and her now husband, were injured in an ATV rollover near Woodridge.
Walker-Ross says, “We were out riding our ATV and when we came around a corner, the machine just rolled, causing my husband to go through the roof and I ended up under the machine. It was quite an experience, that’s for sure.”
Walker-Ross suffered a serious spinal injury and compressed skull fracture in the rollover which also left her pinned underneath the two-seater ATV.
It was quickly discovered that she was in a life-threatening condition and required immediate critical care. STARS was dispatched and transported Hayley to the hospital.
When asked what she remembers about the crash, Walker-Ross says, “I didn't know kind of the process of what was happening until I got to the hospital in Winnipeg. I remember seeing the propellers, and I remember puking on someone in the helicopter, but that's about it. It wasn't until after I had my cranioplasty, the first time, that I fully understood. So, I ended up having a right temporal bone fracture, which was pushed onto my brain, and a few days later, found out that my spine was actually fractured in a few different vertebrates. So, it was a bit of a whirlwind, that's for sure.”
Walker-Ross says she has been deeply impacted by the physical effects of the crash, including losing her sense of taste which meant she had to leave her prior career as a professional chef.
“When I first had my accident, I was a chef. Now I'm a plumber here in Steinbach with Browns Plumbing, and honestly, my life has changed completely for the better.”
Despite that setback, Walker-Ross says she understands how fortunate she is that STARS was able to land near the scene of the rollover and transport her to the hospital. “I don’t know where I would be or how I would be if wasn’t for STARS. They saved my life.”
Walker-Ross says she never really noticed the STARS helicopters before her accident. But these days, it's different.
“I can point their helicopter out when it's flying over my head. I know exactly the sound it makes. My dad said the other day that he sees them more and more, and we need to support them more and more because we need them. They are there to save lives.”
She notes, “There are some instances where they pick up people and those people don't get the chance that I did and that's why I'm here today speaking about them (STARS). I can't say enough about what they did for me and if it wasn't for STARS, I don't think I'd be here to tell the story today.”
When it comes to the STARS crew, Walker-Ross has nothing but praise for their professionalism and care.
“It's honestly crazy. The people who saved my life, the moment I see them, it's a totally different feeling. It's a weird connection. Jason, my flight pilot, or Andrew, my flight pilot, like, honestly, every time I see them, it's just a big joy, a great hug. They're great to be around. Unfortunately, I can't remember the rest of their names, but I know their faces. So, it's just an amazing connection.”
Walker-Ross also remembers the doctor on her flight and watching them coach others through the care process.
“They teach everybody. and the best thing about it is, they give these opportunities to learn and grow both as people on the flight and for instance, me like I've been given this opportunity and it's amazing.”
She says that a lot of people call their 'work family' a family, but being a part of a STARS family is totally different.
“We were all given the opportunity to create a family at a point where we were at our lowest, and they brought us back to where we needed to be to get the help we needed to become the people we are today.
“I know for a fact I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for STARS. There have been multiple instances where I go into the hospital because I've hurt myself or something else, and doctors look at my X-rays or hear my medical history and they're like, “How are you alive?” And I'm grateful to STARS for giving me the opportunity to be alive and that I can be fulfilled and keep going. Without them, I wouldn't be anywhere where I am today.”
These days when Walker-Ross sees a STARS helicopter, she gets overwhelmed.
“It's always impactful. They give us the chance to, either if it's to continue our life, or say goodbye to those loved ones, or have those extra minutes, it's worth it.”
Another thing Walker-Ross noticed about STARS is that they are constantly staying on top of technology to further themselves and better their services.
"We need to keep supporting them. They help lives more than you would even imagine.”
As to why we should support STARS, Walker-Ross says,
“To save a life. You never know when you're gonna need STARS and you want STARS there when you need them.”
Thinking back to the day of the accident, she says, “I was given the opportunity to use them, and I couldn't be more grateful. When we had our ATV accident my husband got a bill in the mail from the ambulance and there was nothing that came from STARS other than love and support, and that right there is enough to say that we need to continue supporting them and creating a better environment with them in it.”
Since her crash, Walker-Ross has become a strong STARS ally, volunteering at a number of fundraising events and speaking on behalf of the organization.
The Critical Care on the Air Radiothon for STARS, presented by LMS Ag Equipment, is on your local radio stations AM1250, MIX 96.7FM and COUNTRY 107.7FM, May 17 and 18, 2023.