The door clicked shut and my son, Connor, 11, came jogging down the hallway, red faced and out of breath.
"How was your run, mate?" I asked, leaning against the counter with a cuppa.
"Good," he panted. "I ran 12 kilometres!"
I looked down at my watch. It felt like he'd only just left!
"You're going to show that cross country race who's boss this year," I said, scruffing his curly hair before he wandered off to the shower.
Connor was a natural-born athlete but cross country running was his real forte. He always came first in that event at the school sports carnival.
Just then, my phone buzzed with a text from my mum, Karen.
The storms have destroyed our property, it read. Underneath was a photo of water tanks strewn across the road, trees stripped of their bark and debris everywhere.
My parents lived on a property almost three hours away in Hodgeleigh, Qld, but they couldn't manage the clean-up alone.
I have a day off tomorrow, I messaged back, I'll come and help you.
Connor was desperate to chip in.
"Please, Mum," he begged. He had school the next day and usually hated missing it, but I was proud of his caring nature.
"Okay," I said, smiling. "Just this once."
Early the next morning my partner, Harry, 41, and I packed Connor and Harry's two kids into our four-wheel drive and took off.
When we arrived at Hodgeleigh, we realised that the devastation was much worse than the photo had let on.
The storms had ravaged the area like a tornado, destroying everything in their path.
Mum and Dad met us at the driveway with their truck and we quickly got to work, loading rubbish and debris into the trailers.
"Mum, check this out!" Connor called to me.
I turned to see a huge tree had fallen over, its spiralling roots sticking straight up in a clump, leaving a chasm in the ground.
As Connor stood in the gaping hole, the tree's base towered over him. It was a true indication of just how powerful the storm must have been.
"I've never seen anything like it!" I said.
We all took turns taking photos standing in front of it.
Then Harry and I left the kids playing while we got back to work.
We could hear them giggling as we loaded the truck.
But moments later, I heard a bloodcurdling scream.
Heart racing, I looked over to see that the tree had somehow launched itself back up into place, its roots filling the hole where Connor had just been standing.
Harry and I sprinted across the paddock towards it.
"Where's Connor?" I screamed frantically, my eyes darting left and right.
The kids pointed to underneath the tree.
No! He can't be!
I raced over and saw just his head and shoulders beneath the huge, heavy roots.
He was unconscious, crushed at the chest and his face was purple.
I dropped to my knees and my fingers started digging ferociously at the dirt around him. "Hold on, Connor, I'll get you out!" I cried.
Harry and Dad quickly tied ropes and chains around the tree trunk, attaching it to their trucks.
In unison, they revved the engines forward, lifting the roots just enough for me to drag Connor out from underneath tree.
Trembling in terror, I remembered my first aid training. Connor wasn't breathing, but I could feel a heartbeat.
I began mouth to mouth and soon enough, raspy and weak air escaped from his lips, then he coughed up blood.
"Tell them to hurry," I urged Mum, who'd called triple 0.
I stayed by Connor's side, while Mum took the other kids inside.
I held his hand tightly until the paramedics arrived 40 minutes later.
They sprang into action, helping Connor breathe until the LifeFlight helicopter arrived.
My mind was spinning. Was this really happening?
"They were just playing," I kept saying to Harry. "I only looked away for a second."
"It's not your fault," he said calmly. "Help's coming."
Although Connor was breathing, his condition wasn't looking good.
"He might have significant brain injuries," the ambos said. "You need to be prepared."
I felt numb. Only an hour ago he was playing, now he was fighting for his life.
Harry stayed with the kids while I flew with Connor to the Lady Cilento Hospital.
On the way, I called Connor's dad, John, 35, and he was there when we arrived, his eyes brimming with tears.
"I'm so glad he's alive," he said, wrapping me in a hug.
But we knew Connor wasn't in the clear yet.
Doctors said he had a broken femur, eight broken ribs, crushed lungs, a squashed heart and was in desperate need of a full airway reconstruction and a rod in his leg.
A week later, he woke up from the coma. He still had a tube down his throat to help him breathe after all his surgeries.
It was confronting to see, but Connor took it in his stride, smiling, despite what he'd been through. If he wasn't upset, how could I be?
He couldn't talk, so he scribbled little notes to communicate.
Slowly, I told him what had happened and showed him the photo we'd taken just minutes before it all unfolded, of him standing underneath the roots. "You were trapped under the tree," I said, tearing up.
I'm okay, Mum, he wrote in his notebook. I'm okay now.
I couldn't believe his strength.
He never complained or broke down.
I was so proud of him.
Two weeks later, he was breathing on his own and talking again.
"I've been given a second chance, Mum," he smiled.
Three months later, we were allowed home.
"I can't wait to get back into running," Connor said. "I want to compete in the cross country race."
At first, he struggled to walk 100m, but he stuck at it, pushing his lungs a little harder each day.
He was such a little fighter.
A few weeks later, the LifeFlight team invited us to their headquarters so Connor could meet the team that saved his life and they could see how he was doing.
"Don't cry, Mum," he warned as we entered with John.
I blinked back tears giving the team a big hug.
They'd saved my son's life.
I owed them everything.
Somehow, I kept my composure.
"Thank you," I smiled.
Now, seven months later, Connor's healed remarkably well and even ran 3km in his school's cross country race. It filled me with pride.
Connor is so lucky to be alive.
Without everyone who played a part in his rescue, he wouldn't be here today.
Every day, we thank our lucky stars for our miracle.
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