FOR 12-year-old Laura Brown a false start at a swimming carnival was the beginning of a life confined to a wheelchair and dependent on others.
The teen dived into water just 90 centimetres deep after the starting blocks were placed at the wrong end of the pool at a swimming club carnival on November 11, 2000, the Victorian Supreme Court heard today.
Laura, now aged 16, is suing the Lara Swimming Club for damages which her lawyer told the jury would run to millions of dollars.
Her lawyer Richard Stanley, QC, told the court due to “some extraordinary reason” the starting blocks were placed at the shallow end of the pool at the club, in Lara south-west of Melbourne.
Mr Stanley said Laura’s false start to the under-12s 100-metre breaststroke race saw her plunge into the shallow water, breaking her neck and leaving her a quadriplegic.
“She was a fun loving ordinary outgoing 12-year-old… life was still ahead of her,” he said.
“(Now) Laura needs help with pretty well everything. She can’t wash herself. She can’t dry herself, can’t dress herself. She can’t even go the toilet herself.
“She is totally and utterly dependent on others.”
Mr Stanley said Laura would require damages for costs incurred so far and likely in the future, loss of potential income and damages for suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life.
The court heard since the accident Laura has been confined to a wheelchair and only has partial use of her left hand.
She has a permanent Catheter in her bladder, cannot control her bowel movements and has poor body temperature control forcing her to remain within an airconditioned Environment.
The 16-year-old requires constant care, with attendants coming to her home three times a day to dress her, feed her and wash her.
At school Laura struggles to keep up, requiring an aid to take notes for her and has frequent absences due to medical problems.
“She has completely lost her independence and it is something that she has to come to grips with,” Mr Stanley told the jury.
Laura’s accident happened only six weeks after her family moved to Lara from Yass in the NSW Southern Highlands.
Prior to the accident Laura told the court she had been “pretty athletic”, swimming four to five times a week.
She said she knew as soon as the accident happened that she couldn’t move her legs.
“When I first fell in the pool it was just weird I couldn’t get up,” Laura said.
Later in hospital, where she spent seven months, Laura said she became scared.
“I was scared, I didn’t know what was going on… how long I would be there or whether I would get better.”
Mr Stanley told the court Lara Swimming Club had already admitted liability and had bought a specialised van for the family so that Laura could be taken to school.
The trial before Justice Robert Redlich continues tomorrow.
This report appears on NEWS.com.au.
By Renee Barnes