“The most wonderful noise was hearing the helicopter come”
Colleen, her husband, and their adult son and daughter were part of a group walking the Overland track. It was day five of a 6-day walk, and the guide warned them about the slippery and potentially dangerous conditions. Colleen, a physiotherapist from Sydney, was a naturally cautious walker, and was checking the safety of her foothold going down a steep vertical drop when suddenly she heard a cracking sound from above her.
“When I realised what was happening I was airborne, my pack on my back, heading to a deep ditch.” Colleen’s fall was only broken by the presence of a mossy log that straddled the ditch, and saved her from a fall that could otherwise have been fatal.
Colleen continues, “I woke up on the log, and turned around to see my husband sitting stunned on the side of the track. He’d accidentally fallen from the top. He’d slipped, and his full weight, with his pack, crashed down on top of me. He was unscathed, and I was suspended on this log. He reached out to grab my arm and straight away I knew it was broken. It was so painful, the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Colleen had hit her head badly on the log, her neck was sore, her head was sore, her arm was broken, and she was quickly going into shock.
Her husband took her pack along with his own, and helped her fashion a sling out of a thermal top, and together they stumbled for an hour the final three kilometres to the hut. Colleen says that being a physio she was keenly aware of all the things in her body that could be damaged, and knowing all the possibilities made it worse. Once at the hut the guides administered first aid, and called for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
Colleen recalls with emotion, “The most wonderful noise was hearing the helicopter come. When the helicopter paramedic and the policeman came in I was never more grateful to see anyone in my whole life.”
She was airlifted to the Royal Hobart Hospital, who determined that her head and neck were okay, but her arm had been broken in four places.
Colleen is effusive in her praise of the service. “After this personal experience of near-death and being rescued, and realising that in some situations there’s absolutely no alternative to get to hospital, the Westpac Helicopter was the only way. I am, going to support them forever now. They were so generous, so highly skilled as well, and it’s service that deserves funding.”