As a LandSAR volunteer for 12 years I always carried my plb with the hope I would never need it for myself but perhaps for helping others. That all changed in 2022.
On the 17th of April 2022 a good friend and I flew deep into the Nelson Lakes National Park on a five day hunting trip that would end not with a visit to the taxidermy but with a trip to the Christchurch spinal unit .
Day one saw us drop our packs on the main ridge and travel light across a big basin to get in nice and close on a ripper of a chamois buck which turned out to be Elliot’s best chamois. With only 1.5hrs of daylight left we had plenty of time to make the 40min sidle back to our packs without needing to use our headlamps after what had been a great afternoon on the hill with a good friend.
I was wearing nylon overtrousers and my puffer jacket. Halfway back up the tussock face to our packs I slipped on some wet tussock sending me onto the ground. Because of my slippery clothing on wet tussock I took off at speed sliding in the tussock and was unable to stop. I even tried to self arrest with the spotting scope tripod I had been carrying to no avail. At the bottom of that 20m tussock shoot was an 18m bluff…..
I free fell the 18m landing in a rocky creek bed staying conscious.
As soon as I hit the ground I knew I was in serious trouble not being able to feel my lower body or legs. Knowing I was in need of urgent help, I set off the SOS function on my Garmin inreach that was clipped to my binocular harness on my chest. Poor Elliot thought he had seen somebody fall to their death and was relieved to hear me screaming in pain.
Over the next 5 hours Elliot also set off his PLB and retrieved our packs and climbed down to me to do what he could to keep me comfortable while we awaited the choppers. Hearing the sound of the Greymouth and Nelson rescue choppers coming up the valley was such an emotional time knowing help was coming.
After receiving what can only be described as gold star treatment by two medics over a period of time, I was winched into the chopper in extremely testing conditions. The crew delivered me to hospital in a swift fashion.
I suffered a broken back with vertebrae being completely shattered and some organs got a good shake up. The amazing surgeons in Christchurch have repaired my back with screws and steel rods which after 12 months were removed. I am making a very good ongoing recovery and it’s all down to receiving medical treatment in a timely manner due to the services of the rescue chopper service. Without the Rescue chopper the outcome for me would have been very different.
They performed a very challenging rescue of me in challenging conditions and supported my distressed friend through the shock of the whole situation.
It was also extremely comforting to loved ones at home to know I was being rescued and in the best hands.
I owe my life and use of my legs to the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter service , the surgeons in Christchurch, as well as Elliot for his care while I waited for help.
The rescue chopper service really is a lifesaver, believe me! Accidents do happen to anyone regardless of your experience.