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Tim van de Molen, National MP for Waikato, describes how he sustained serious injuries. Video / Mark Mitchell

National MP Tim van de Molen says he feared he’d never walk again after a horrific chainsaw accident that saw him break his neck, back and both arms.

Van de Molen, who returned to Parliament today for the first time since the accident in February, said after a storm in February as a “pretty rural bloke” he had been out tidying some of the aftermath.

The Waikato MP was cutting branches at his in-laws’ place standing on scaffolding at about head height when a large branch took a “nasty bounce” as it landed and topped the scaffolding.

Van de Molen landed awkwardly on timber he’d already cut, breaking his neck in the process.

National Party MP Tim van de Molen returns to Parliament after a horrific accident where he broke his neck and both arms.  Photo / Mark Mitchell
National Party MP Tim van de Molen returns to Parliament after a horrific accident where he broke his neck and both arms. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He also broke his vertebrae, back, his right wrist and various fractures as well as breaks in his left arm.

“At that point, it was incredibly hard to breathe because of the rib damage and spine,” van de Molen said.

“My first thought was, am I ever going to walk again?

“Am I ever going to play soccer with the kids or all the things I want to do as a parent with your young kids growing up?

“Fortunately, yes, I could feel my legs pretty quickly after that. And then it went pretty quickly too.”

His father-in-law was nearby and called an ambulance.

“It was a pretty challenging 20 minutes or so before the first pain relief arrived,” he said.

He spent 10 days at Waikato Hospital.

“The ambulance staff were amazing, hospital staff fantastic.”

It took him some time to be able to get out of bed, but he was now walking and had been working from home for a number of weeks now.

“I’ve started physiotherapy twice a week on my arms and also on my back.

“So it’s a long journey. For the back it’s probably still another six months, and they’re expecting I’ll get about 90 per cent function back after that.”

Van de Molen, who’d competed in the Young Farmer of the Year competition, said initially he felt embarrassed as he was very safety-conscious.

“It’s safety first on the farm, and that’s something I’ve always prided myself on. I reflect on that.

“I had all the safety gear on of course, so I didn’t get a head injury because I had a helmet on, chainsaw chaps and everything. Ultimately it just appeared to be a freak accident.

“I’m not sure there was much I could have done differently, but it’s just a reminder to always take that extra moment to consider safety.”

Van de Molen said it had been challenging on his family, his wife and their young children.

My wife has just been incredible. I was just lying there, in the hospital bed I was getting looked after but she was the one that had to step up and look after the kids and get everything functioning. So she’s been incredible.

“We’ve also had great family support and support from around the electorate as well.

“People cooking meals, but just the influx of cards and messages from colleagues down here in Parliament and constituents around the Waikato, the best electorate in the country.

Van de Molen said he’d be taking back all his portfolios – Agriculture, Defence, Horticulture and Veterans.

“I’m in a positive space and I’m really delighted to be back down in Wellington ready to crack back into holding the Government to account.”

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