Published on 5/18/2017
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Woman paralysed by falling concrete slab takes legal action against Gold Coast council
At age 24, Glenda Merlini knows she will never walk again
At age 24, Glenda Merlini knows she will never walk again.
Her happy, carefree life was cruelly derailed last August when, in a freak accident, a concrete slab fell on top of her in a Gold Coast carpark.
Ms Merlini, who is Italian, was on a working holiday in Australia and coming home from a night out in Surfers Paradise with her then boyfriend and their friends when the accident happened.
The night was a celebration. Ms Merlini had just landed her dream job working for fashion label Prada.
“We were out celebrating because I just had a great interview that day with Prada, it was a six month contract full-time and they offered me the job,” Ms Merlini told Nine.com.au.
“I was really happy. I had always wanted, wished that I could go work for Prada. It was my biggest dream ever.”
But Ms Merlini would never get a chance to take up the job.
Making their way back to their hostel that night, Ms Merlini and her boyfriend took a shortcut through the Bruce Bishop car park.
Standing at the bottom of a set of stairs in the car park, Ms Merlini says she remembers stopping to light a cigarette when part of the wall next to her suddenly fell on her.
The impact of the concrete broke almost every major bone in the left side of Ms Merlini’s body from the chest down.
It smashed her left rib cage, collapsed a lung and broke her pelvis, spine and sacrum and tibia.
“I was completely conscious with everything happening in that moment. I felt the wall falling on me,” Ms Merlini said.
“I could hear noises all around me (of people yelling) but I didn’t know what they were saying.
“I remember seeing there was a pair of legs under the concrete and I thought, ‘Oh my God there’s another person under here. We need to help them because there’s a pair of legs with a pair of tights’.
“Then I realised that they were my legs. I touched them and realised that I couldn’t feel my legs.”
Glenda Merlini pictured before and after her accident. (Photos: Supplied)
Ms Merlini has made a legal claim for compensation from Gold Coast City Council and the firm who built the carpark, AW Edwards, and is not able to speak about some details of the accident.
Just two months before the accident, a report to Gold Coast City Council identified the carpark as an “infrastructure risk” because of the presence of concrete cancer. Remediation works to the tune of $1million were slated to commence in the 2016/2017 financial year.
Back on the scene of the accident, witnesses reported hearing Ms Merlini screaming and yelling, “Get it off me”.
“I just remember my boyfriend was completely desperate. He didn’t know what to do, he was really worried and scared,” Ms Merlini said. A security guard working nearby came running over and together with Ms Merlini’s boyfriend they had managed to lift the concrete off her.
It took paramedics about 15 minutes to arrive.
“They started to remove all my clothes because they didn’t know what had happened. Then they gave me something for the pain and then I fell asleep in the ambulance,” Ms Merlini said.
When she woke up she was in Gold Coast hospital, drifting in and out of consciousness before she was transferred at night to the spinal unit at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.
“I just remember waking up in the room and it was completely white and the guy told me you’re going to be fine, we’re going to try our best,” she said.
Ms Merlini’s distraught parents flew from the other side of the world to be by her bedside.
The Italian tourist would spend the next six weeks at the hospital before going back to Italy to be treated at a hospital in Milan.
Ms Merlini said she was still struggling to come to terms with the unfairness of her accident.
“The feeling that I have always every day is that I’m angry. Not even sad, but angry because I cannot have back my life and I don’t have anyone to say ‘it’s your fault’ to. I can’t say it to the concrete.”
Ms Merlini said before the accident she had worked for four months on an Innisfail farm in far north Queensland so she could get a visa to stay in Australia for another year.
“I was trying to make my new life in Australia because I really love Australia and I wanted to stay there,” she said.
“I worked so hard. I was just starting to do what I wanted to do. And instead I lost everything of what I was. I lost basically all my life with the accident.”
Ms Merlini is now back home in the northern Italian province of Piacenza, and working hard in rehab, but doctors have told her she will likely remain in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Doctors have told Ms Merlini that she will never walk again. (Photo: Supplied)
“The doctors they say that probably my condition is not going to change. There might be some progress but the progress is going to be in getting faster to do things,” she said.
“When something terrible happens like this you find everything changes and I can’t go back and do the things I did before.”
Ms Merlini said the things she missed every day were “stupid things that you don’t even think about”.
“I can’t even jump again, and I can’t dance again. I was loving going dancing and I was loving dancing in general and even just around the house.
“I used to be really crazy. I used to jump on the bed and I was really childish sometimes but it was fun.
“So now I’m trying to think about what I can do instead of what I can’t do because every day is a fight actually. Because every day there is something or someone that will remind you of what you can’t do anymore.”
Ms Merlini’s friends and family have set up fundraising accounts for her in Italy and Australia, and the money raised so far has helped her buy a light-weight wheelchair.
Determined to gain some independence, Ms Merlini successfully retook her driver’s licence test last week and is now able to drive a specially modified car designed for paraplegics.
Ms Merlini said she was also hoping to start a fashion course at a university in Milan in October.
“I’m going to try do that. It’s really expensive and I don’t have all the money to do that yet but I think it will be an investment so that I can have a job that I can do in the future,” she said.
Ms Merlini is now back in Italy and hopes to study fashion at university. (Photo: Supplied)
Ms Merlini said she was grateful for the overwhelming support shown by her those around her, and had made a vow to make the most of her life for them.
“I make a promise to them and myself that I’m going to try as hard as I can to get better as I can in my condition, and I’m never going to give up with my life. I’m going to try to be happy for myself and for all my family and my friends that believed in me.”
A spokeswoman for Gold Coast City Council said investigations into the incident at Bruce Bishop Car Park had finished and repair works to the area where the accident occurred were complete.
Just last night, the council voted to sell off the carpark to raise funds for the new cultural precinct and the duplication of the Isle of Capri Bridge.
Ms Merlini’s laywer, Wesley Lerch, from Queensland Compensation Lawyers, said her case was currently in the pre-litigation phase.
If the matter could not be resolved a claim would be filed in Brisbane’s Supreme Court.
Mr Lerch said it was unfortunate that under Queensland law victims injured on public property were often left without sufficient access to funds for rehabilitation because defendants are not required to provide any before a case is settled.
“A person receiving the same injuries as Glenda in Queensland while at work would receive full and extensive rehab funded through Workcover. A person receiving the same injuries in a motor vehicle accident - and assuming the person was not the at fault driver - would receive rehabilitation funded under the CTP scheme,” Mr Lerch said.
“In Glenda’s case, the reality is that she does not qualify for any appropriate rehab in Queensland, and has been forced to return to Italy to obtain that treatment.”
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2017
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