October 3, 2019
An Auckland woman who lost her unborn child in a horrific crash has finally got enough strength back to launch another battle.
This time, it's a battle for change in the law.
Joanna Harris was dying as emergency services frantically worked to save her life after a van, which had already overtaken several cars, lost control and slid head-on into her car as she travelled along Dome Valley on SH1 in November 2016.
She remembers wondering whether to speed up or brake but realised she could not avoid the crash.
"I remember watching my hand ... fly across off the steering wheel and literally snap off my wrist in front of my face," she told the Herald in December 2018 after recovering from yet another surgery.
She was trapped in the vehicle when paramedics and fire crews arrived, and bleeding profusely from internal injuries.
The Wellsford woman would probably have bled to death had an emergency trauma doctor, Marcus Chan, not been on board the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter to provide a mid-air blood transfusion.
She was 34 weeks pregnant with a son, Bo, who died in the crash.
The driver of the van was convicted of three counts of dangerous driving causing injury and lost his licence for 7 months and ordered to pay $9000 in reparations - $5000 towards the cost of her $11,000 vehicle and $4000 lost earnings - but there was no charge for killing her unborn child.
She labelled the sentence "a joke".
Harris, who was self-employed, has been off work since and doubts she will be able to work properly again.
She has been on an invalid's benefit since that fateful day.
Now, after battling her way through 3 years of surgeries, she has launched a petition to fight for the rights of the unborn child and get people who kill a foetus to be charged.
In her petition she writes, "[driver] was only charged with three counts of driving causing injury and lost his licence for 7 months, despite the fact that he was travelling above the speed limit on a 65km/h corner in rain and crossed centre line directly into my vehicle".
"Please everyone sign and share.. to support this petition so other families get some justice in future.
"I have started this petition to fight for amendment to traffic laws to protect unborn babies over 22 weeks gestation in traffic accidents.. fight for justice."
Harris was reluctant to comment yet about the petition, but told the Herald that it had been "a really hard 3 years of recovery and I am glad I'm finally well enough emotionally and physically to put this petition together as it's been on my mind since the court case".
Harris only survived due to the actions of Chan as she flew to hospital on the Auckland Rescue Helicopter - also the only chopper which carries emergency trauma doctors on board.
He performed a mid-air blood transfusion that saved her life, buying her time until they arrived in hospital where surgeons had prepared a theatre. By the time they arrived those two units of blood had been drained.
She had 16 blood transfusions in the first 24 hours.
It has been a traumatic three years but Harris wanted to now do what she could to help bring justice to other families or women who go through the same thing.