Melbourne mum opens up on the horror moment she fell 5m and broke her spine during a camping trip on the Murray River near Toccomwal, NSW

A mother-of-three has been left paralysed from the waist down after a horrifying camping accident which would have ended in tragedy if it wasn’t for the quick actions of her family.

Lee Cattanach, 46, was enjoying a weekend away with her partner, three daughters and friends on the Murray River near the NSW Riverina town of Toccomwal during the Easter long weekend.

The Melbourne mum had walked over to the firepit located near the cliff edge to warm up her hands.

When she took one step back, she misjudged where riverbank was in the inky black night away from the fire and tumbled five metres off the cliff into the river.

Lee Cattanach (pictured with youngest daughter Tegan) is paralysed from the waist down

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‘I just didn’t realise how close the fire was to the edge, it was dark. I stepped back, just one step, and that was it,’ Ms Cattanach told

The next thing she was aware of was ‘gurgling water’ after she fell five metres almost into the river.

‘My head was underwater when they (her family) got to me, and I was knocked out,’ Ms Cattanach recalled.

Fortunately, daughters Aly, 26, and Tegan, 15, were by the fire and rushed to her aid.

‘They had to pull my head out of the water without trying to move me too much,’ Ms Cattanach said.

Her partner Mick phoned triple-0 but after realising the ambulance would have trouble finding the secluded spot, he jumped in the car to guide paramedics to the scene.

Despite Tegan suffering panic attacks, Ms Ms Cattanach’s daughters took turns in holding her head out of the water. 

As thick fog prevented helicopter assistance and debris in the river ruling out rescue by boat, paramedics faced the dilemma of how to get the immobilised Mr Cattanach up the steep bank.

The campsite next to the Murray River where Ms Cattanach suffered her life-changing accident

The campsite next to the Murray River where Ms Cattanach suffered her life-changing accident

It took three hours to get spinal board that Ms Cattanach could be strapped to and  ‘abseiled’ up the ravine.

‘Every pull they did was excruciating pain,’ she said.

Ms Cattanach was transported to Shepparton Hospital.

She doesn’t remember the ambulance ride and woke up in hospital with Mick by her bedside. 

She had broken T11 and T12 vertebrae, severely damaged her spinal cord, fractured three ribs along with her sternum, along with a collapsed lung. 

After being transported to Melbourne’s The Alfred hospital for major surgery Ms Cattanach remains paralysed from the waist down.

It remains unclear whether she will ever walk again. 

Following surgery Ms Cattanach was admitted to ICU in Melbourne’s Austin Hospital before being transferred to the spinal recovery ward.

‘I just want to go home,’ Ms Cattanach said as she begins the arduous recovery road of trying to regain balance and be able to move from her chair to her bed independently.  

With Ms Cattanach no longer able to work as an assistant pub manager, her daughters started a GoFundMe page to help the family manage financially and pay mounting medical costs.

Ms Cattanach (pictured right centre) with her three daughters Aly, 26, Amy, 17 and Tegan, 15

Ms Cattanach (pictured right centre) with her three daughters Aly, 26, Amy, 17 and Tegan, 15

‘My mum was/is such a trooper, she’s independent, stubborn, positive, bubbly outgoing personality, always laughing, smiling and always lived life to the fullest and strive to make everyone around her happy, putting others first,’ daughter Tegan wrote.

‘Always happy to help, even if she didn’t have anything left in her positive tank, she would find a way.’ 

Lee Cattanach’s work financial entitlements will be exhausted next month. 

‘Her manual car will be too difficult/not suitable to convert into a car she can drive whilst paralysed,’ her daughter wrote.

‘We don’t know how long recovery will take, months, years, or the realisation that she may never recover.’ 

The fundraiser will also help Lee Cattanach  focus on rehabilitation.

‘To have her independence back will be priceless, so any donation of any amount will be greatly appreciated,’ her daughter added. 

By Saturday night, $13,308 had been raised towards the $20,000 goal.

Melbourne mum Lee Cattanach (pictured) doesn't know if she'll ever walk again

Melbourne mum Lee Cattanach (pictured) doesn’t know if she’ll ever walk again