Nicole Clark was four weeks pregnant when she miscarried on the side of the road on New Year’s Day, as she desperately tried to make it home to Adelaide after visiting family in coastal New South Wales.
- As Nicole Clark and her partner were driving through the outback, she endured a miscarriage
- She said she was given incorrect information, and was let down by authorities as she tried to make it home
- SA Police said it was aware of the matter, but that arranging quarantine accommodation was not its responsibility
When South Australian authorities announced a hard border with NSW on December 31, Ms Clark and her partner Mike Poyzer began packing up their belongings to make the 15-hour drive from Dalmeny.
Little did she know she was about to embark on a heartbreaking trip that would, she said, involve being turned away from the Victorian border, losing her pregnancy and being admitted to hospital.
“It was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was nervous,” the 31-year-old said.
The couple hoped to make it home via Victoria to allow them to finish their quarantine by January 15, when Mr Poyzer had been due to return to work and Ms Clark was planning to start a PhD, after developing a treatment idea for COVID-19.
Ms Clark said that, as the pair arrived at the first checkpoint just outside the Murray River town of Tooleybuc, a police officer told them they could not enter Victoria.
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Instead, they would have to take “back roads” along the NSW border to cross on the northern side of the river, between Wentworth and Renmark in SA’s Riverland.
“Mike and I just kind of looked at each other and thought, ‘Is that safe?'” she said.
Ms Clark said the same police officer later phoned them to say that he had been mistaken, and they could cross into Victoria provided they had filled out an application online.
But when they arrived in Mildura, they were again told they could not enter and were advised to head to SA via Wentworth, Ms Clark said.
Ms Clark said the couple was directed to head through Wentworth, on the NSW side of the border.(ABC Mildura-Swan Hill: Christopher Testa)
In a statement, Victoria Police said it was “unable to provide details about specific incidents at border checkpoints”.
“Police will always apply common sense and in certain circumstances officers will still use discretion,” a spokesperson said.
Ms Clark said she only realised most of the 150-kilometre road from Wentworth to Renmark was unsealed when she and Mr Poyzer reached the end of the bitumen.
“We had no idea the roads were going to be so dangerous, I didn’t think our car would make it,” she said.
Almost at the border, their luck ran out when one of their tyres punctured within a kilometre of their home state.
An unsealed section of the Old Renmark Road which runs between Wentworth and Renmark.(ABC Mildura-Swan Hill: Christopher Testa)
While Mr Poyzer was trying to fix the tyre, Ms Clark felt an agonising pain and got out of the car clutching her stomach.
“I knew there was something seriously wrong, and that no pregnancy could survive this,” she said.
“Deep down inside, I knew [I was] losing the pregnancy, because [of] the intensity of the pain and the cramping, and just the agony I was in.
“I was just thinking, ‘This is just so humiliating. I can’t control what’s coming out of my body right now’.”
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‘I was beside myself’
After temporarily fixing the run-flat tyre, the distressed couple’s BMW limped to the SA checkpoint where, Ms Clark said, police did not get out of their booth despite Mr Poyzer explaining that she was having a miscarriage and in need of medical attention.
“They just demanded to know where Mike and I had been in NSW,” she said.
File photo of unidentified police at a border checkpoint in SA’s Riverland.(ABC News: Samantha Dawes)
“I was crying and sobbing in the car very loudly and I couldn’t control anything and I was crying out because I was in pain as well.
“I was beside myself it was just crazy.”
In a statement, SA Police said it had “not received a complaint” about the matter, and that Ms Clark had been taken by the SA Ambulance Service (SAAS) to Berri’s Riverland General Hospital.
“Police are aware of an incident where a man and woman travelled from New South Wales to the SA border on January 1,” a spokesperson said.
“On arrival at the border the man sought assistance from SAAS [and] the woman involved was transported to the Berri hospital.”
Ms Clark was taken to the Riverland General Hospital at Berri.(ABC Riverland: Samantha Dawes)
Ms Clark said a doctor confirmed she was having a miscarriage, and that she could expect more bleeding.
“By this point I had no way of getting home, no battery on my phone I had no idea what to do,” she said.
‘This can’t be happening’
Before she was discharged, Ms Clark said staff at the hospital told her that police had been called and that they could escort her to where she needed to go.
But she said that, when they arrived, they told her they could not take her anywhere because she was supposed to be in quarantine.
“I was delusional with grief. I had just lost my child. I thought this can’t be happening,” she said.
Ms Clark returned a positive pregnancy test on Boxing Day.(Supplied)
In a statement, the Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network which is responsible for the Riverland General Hospital said it was unable to comment on specific cases.
But it said that “every effort” is made to “ensure that patients who are admitted to hospital and have challenges getting back home safely are provided with appropriate support”.
SA Police said while the couple had been “informed of their requirement to have a COVID test and to self-quarantine”, it was not the responsibility of police to make “quarantine accommodation arrangements” for people travelling from NSW.
Ms Clark said that, after being discharged from hospital, she started walking back to her car despite medical advice not to, because she had no other choice.
“When we finally reached the car, I was in so much pain that I knew what was coming, and there was nothing I could do to stop it,” she said.
She said that, in the “most private place” she could find under a large eucalyptus tree in a gully she completed the miscarriage.
Ms Clark said she hoped no-one else ever has an experience like hers.(ABC News: Michael Clements)
Her partner’s parents drove two cars to Berri and then gave one of them to Ms Clark and Mr Poyzer to drive themselves home to the northern Adelaide suburb of Pooraka, where they remain in quarantine.
Ms Clark said she hoped she could put the ordeal behind her as she prepares to begin her PhD.
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