A freak accident at Kambah Adventure Playground last month saw a 14-year-old girl airlifted to Westmead Hospital in Sydney with a broken spine. Her mother is now calling for a risk assessment of the popular flying fox equipment.
On 11 September, Tahlia Floyer reached the end of the flying fox with such force she flipped into the air and crash-landed on her head and neck, breaking three vertebrae.
Her two friends immediately realised something was wrong and rushed over from the other end of the flying fox to help when a passerby called out for them not to move her.
The passerby, a woman, immobilised Tahlia while another woman with medical experience approached the scene to help.
They phoned for an ambulance and called both of Tahlia’s parents.
Janelle Cirina was out of range at the time but gobsmacked when she did find out, saying that – of her three kids – Tahlia was the least likely to take risks.
“She has always been the quietest one, and then to hear that this happened to her – I couldn’t process it.”
Janelle says that at this point in the lockdown, Tahlia was missing her friends and agreed to meet them outdoors.
What happened next was the last thing “you would think would have happened at a children’s playground”.
Canberra Health Services established she had broken the T11, T12, and T1 vertebrae in her back and that she should be sent to Sydney for surgery.
Tahlia’s surgeon at Westmead Hospital described her as “very lucky to still be alive”. She is now back at her home in Urila, about an hour’s drive from Canberra, with six screws in her back and a fused spine.
“She’s got a brace that’s been tailor-made for her. If she doesn’t have that on, she can’t move.”
The family will return to Westmead in two weeks to assess how the repair is going. A less restrictive brace may need to be made, one that she will wear for six to 12 months.
“She’s had a few really down days,” Janelle says. “I just really need to look out for her mental health at the moment.”
Janelle herself feels “really disgruntled by the whole thing”.
“You go through a range of emotions. Grief, followed by anger, and you think, ‘How can this possibly happen?’ My two older children are quite daring – they jump out of planes. My son fell out of a five-metre tree being silly, and they’ve always been fine.”
She has since put in a complaint to the ACT Government but has yet to receive a response.
“Even Tahlia wrote in to describe what happened to her and how she feels about it. Surely these things face a risk assessment from time to time, to work out if things need to be changed.”
Janelle has since posted to Facebook to find the ‘good Samaritans’ who rushed to her daughter’s aid, saying that “we cannot express enough gratitude for your quick thinking and extraordinary act of kindness”. She has been in contact with one of the women.
“It was really on my mind to thank those women because it could have been a very different outcome if her friends had run down and just pulled her up.”