"They are the reason I'm here today"
Josie was fit and active, and had spent some time preparing for her walk on the Overland track. She was in a group of seven walkers, with two guides, at the start of a six-day hike. It was early October, there was residual snow on the ground, but the guides said it was the first clear day they’d had for quite some while.
As the group walked longer into the afternoon the snow on the ground became thicker, going from a light smattering to ankle, and even knee-deep in places. During their stop at the Kitchen Hut Josie had a headache, and felt some fatigue, but she put it down as a normal reaction to the strenuous walk.
She says, “My walking slowed down a lot. One of the guides decided to stay with me as I wasn’t feeling well. At one point I leaned forward onto my walking poles and said, “If I didn’t know any better I’d say I was having a heart attack!” About 50 metres on from this point Josie collapsed into the snow. It was later found out she had indeed had a heart attack, as well as a minor stroke.
Josie continues, “The guide with me set up an emergency shelter on the side of the track, called the ambulance, and the Westpac Rescue helicopter was dispatched to come and retrieve me. After about an hour and a half we heard the helicopter overhead, but couldn’t see it as the weather conditions had come in.” Josie says, “I distinctly remember the sound of the blades. I was in and out of consciousness, but I remember asking my guide how long they’d be. And she kept reinforcing that I was safe, that I was going to be okay.” The wind was so ferocious at this time that the metal pole supporting their emergency shelter snapped in two.
All in all, over the course of the evening, the helicopter crew tried five times unsuccessfully to retrieve Josie, and on the sixth attempt were able to take her to Burnie hospital where she was treated.
Josie’s gratitude towards the Westpac Rescue Helicopter team is palpable. “They’re extraordinary people, doing an amazing job, and so persistent, so determined that it was going to be done…they are the reason I am here today.”
“For anyone wishing to support the service in any way, every dollar helps to keep the crews safe, to keep them trained, to keep them in the air and keep them servicing the communities of Tasmania. It’d be lovely to see the communities of Tasmania get behind these guys and really support them.”