Gillian Archer

Dense bush, a cold day and a logistical challenge could not keep the local emergency services and the Northland Rescue Chopper crew from rescuing Gillian Archer when she slipped and fractured her ankle on a tramping trip in June.

What started as the perfect day for a tramp on the Te Whara track in the Bream Head Scenic Reserve with her club soon turned into a disaster. Gillian slipped on wet, rugged ground twisting one ankle which in turn caused her to put her other foot down on a slippery root too quickly, landing heavily on her other ankle.

Thinking she had sprained both ankles, and determined to get back up again, Gillian took some Panadol and waited for the pain to subside, but quickly realised that wasn’t going to be the case.

The 68-year-old was well-prepared, as was her tramping friends who stayed to support their friend. She put on more warm layers of clothing, ate barley sugars to help with the onset of shock and with the help of her walking companions, wrapped herself in a thermal blanket. A call to the emergency services with the GPS location was soon made, as she realised she could not put any weight on her left foot.

“Every time I tried to get up, my leg would just collapse under me. I left my hiking boots on to help keep the swelling down. No one had heard a crack so we figured my ankle was severely sprained. I shuffled down to some stairs so I could sit at the bottom and keep my ankle elevated. And then we waited,” she says.

In no time local volunteer fire brigade first responders arrived and found Gillian. Realising the rugged terrain of her location, it was evident the helicopter needed to assist.

“it was simply too rugged and too far to stretcher me out. It was hard enough for them when they carried me on the stretcher to a clearing. The rescue team were just so efficient and so professional. I really do think they were just amazing. I was kind of hoping to avoid using the helicopter as I had seen it before where they winch someone and it seemed a bit frightening,” she says.

After being stabilised and stretchered to a better location for the helicopter, and Gillian says the rescue crew were polite and jovial the whole time, helping taking her mind off her ankle.

On arrival at a clearing, the chopper’s paramedic was already on the ground and briefed Gillian what to expect as she was winched up.

“It was actually amazing – I did have one gasp moment where as we went up we dangled over water. Once I was at the helicopter, I shuffled myself in and they took care of me. The trip into the hospital was beautiful, we flew over Ruakaka and One Tree Point, and over our home”

At the hospital, once her boots were removed and she was x-rayed, it showed that she had in fact broken her ankle.

“The break has been kept in line by the boot, so I only needed a cast and I could head home,” says Gillian.

“Overall, aside from the injury, it was the most amazing experience. Everyone was so professional and knew what they were doing. I would never in a million years have thought I would have needed the helicopter. We have always made a donation to the rescue helicopter, but it’s safe to say we are increasing that donation this year – especially when my husband read an article and told me that an average trip in the chopper can cost up to $2500! It is imperative that people support this service as you just never know when you might need

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