The photos of the mangled wreckage of Amanda Legault's SUV cause one to wonder how anyone could have survived such a crash.
Four years ago, Legault (then Siemens) was behind the wheel when her eastbound Dodge Durango collided with a northbound tractor-trailer at the intersection of highways 201 and 306 south of Plum Coulee. She hadn't seen the stop sign.
The April 22, 2009, crash left Legault with brain trauma, a broken neck, broken ribs, a collapsed lung and other injuries.
Fortunately, a STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society) helicopter was nearby. The province had contracted with the Alberta-based service to help it respond to flood-related emergencies that spring.
'They pretty much gave me my life back so I have to give them something, too'
It took the STARS chopper only 18 minutes to transport Legault to Winnipeg, where she was rushed by ground ambulance to Health Sciences Centre. With Highway 75 closed due to flooding, the air ambulance was a lifesaver.
Legault and her family long ago thanked the folks at STARS, which has since become a permanent fixture in Manitoba because of this case and several other life-saving missions.
But now they want to do something more tangible. On July 14, the family is organizing a Manitoba STARS Walkathon at Assiniboine Park to raise money for the non-profit organization.
"They pretty much gave me my life back, so I have to give them something, too," Legault said Monday from Plum Coulee.
"I know it's a tiny, tiny thing, but I want to do anything I can to further their cause."
Legault spent three weeks at Health Sciences Centre -- about half the time in a coma -- and another month and a half recuperating at Riverview Health Centre. "It took me about a year and a half in total for to be functional again," she said.
She suffers occasional short-term memory loss and has double vision when she peers to her right.
But overall, the married 25-year-old mother of two -- daughter Bailey, 5, and son, Kain, 2 -- pronounces herself "98 per cent" recovered. Last year, she competed in the Manitoba Marathon, running the half-marathon. She will do the same this June.
STARS originated in Alberta in 1985 and also provides service in Saskatchewan.
It has operated continuously in Manitoba since the spring of 2011.
STARS is funded through government grants and corporate, community and individual donations. In Alberta, where it is long-established, government provides only 25 to 30 per cent of the cost. In Manitoba, where fundraising is just getting off the ground, the short-term goal is to raise 25 to 30 per cent of the service's $10-million annual cost through donations, spokesman Colin Fast said. After that, it is hoped to continually increase the share raised through fundraising.
Fast said STARS is set to announce its first major corporate donation in Manitoba on Thursday. On June 4, it is set to launch a lottery similar to the Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital fundraising lotteries.
Fast applauded the family's fundraising walkathon.
"We think it's great. It's exactly the kind of thing we love to see," he said, noting other local groups have also been organizing events.
Legault's mother-in-law, Janet Wallace, a Winnipegger, is the walkathon's main organizer. She said the family hopes the event will raise at least $5,000. Details on the event are available at https://foundation.stars.ca/walkathonforstars.
"It's a great cause and they're a non-profit organization," Wallace said.