Facing up to 'car-surfing' lesson

Nick Vermeulen keeps a helmet handy, having suffered serious head injuries in a ''car-surfing'' incident in Mosgiel last November. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Nick Vermeulen keeps a helmet handy, having suffered serious head injuries in a ''car-surfing'' incident in Mosgiel last November. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.

Every time Nick Vermeulen looks in the mirror, the consequences of his actions are reflected in the asymmetry of his face.

The 26-year-old Mosgiel resident is still recovering from the serious injuries he sustained while ''car-surfing'' after the Melbourne Cup Race Day at Wingatui on November 6 last year.

Although Mr Vermeulen can feel the left side of his face, his slackened muscles will take about seven months to return to normal.

''I guess that's good in a way because it teaches me a lesson every day, when I see my face is still not right. Don't stand on the roof of a car while it's going around a corner - don't stand on the roof of a car full stop.''

Mr Vermeulen said he was drinking alcohol with friends at the racecourse before he got them all ''kicked out'' for lighting fireworks.

''I thought it was a good idea at the time. It wasn't.''

A sober friend drove them to the Mosgiel Tavern, and it was in a nearby back street Mr Vermeulen decided to ''surf'' on the roof of the car as it was going about 50kmh.

He fell off when the vehicle went around a corner, fracturing his skull plus breaking his collarbone and four ribs.

Mr Vermeulen was in an induced coma for about 30 hours, then spent two weeks in Dunedin Hospital and two weeks in the Isis Centre at Wakari Hospital before being discharged on December 6.

He could only remember half an hour of the morning of November 6, and about 15 minutes of being in the tavern.

''Doctors say I will never remember anything more from that day.''

Mr Vermeulen hopes to return to work as a builder next month, if he is given the ''all-clear'' by doctors and occupational therapists.

''They say my recovery has gone extremely well, that I should have been in a wheelchair. When I went to Isis they expected me to be a vegetable, to do nothing.''

He warned others about behaving recklessly, and had come to appreciate the importance of wearing protective head gear.

''I was lucky. I still can't sleep. I have to take sleeping pills.''

He was barred from playing contact sports for about two years to protect his brain and allow it to fully recover.

It was the third time Mr Vermeulen had faced serious injury.

About five years ago, he was hit by a truck and trailer while walking in Dukes Rd, and about three years ago he fell about 8m down a cliff at Tomahawk while rock climbing.

''I had nine lives, but I don't have nine now. They're gone.''

Mr Vermeulen said the driver of the vehicle on which he was standing had been charged with reckless driving causing injury, although he took ''full responsibility'' for the incident.

rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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