Geoff Craig, a secondary school teacher from Matamata, describes himself as one of the lucky ones.
“My mates were worried that I had collapsed from a stroke or heart attack,” he says, laughing and somewhat chagrin at the memory.
“But it was just a case of an “unspecified infection” and heatstroke.”
He laughs it off, but his condition was severe enough to cause him to pass out during a walk from Cape Reinga to Ahipara.
Geoff is an experienced tramper and hunter, and during the April school holidays he set off with his brother, nephew and mate Sandy along 90 Mile Beach. They were careful to stay hydrated, filling up their water bottles from every creek that they passed along the way.
“One minute, we were walking along, joking and having a great time. I remember that the scenery was spectacular and the wind was coming up,” he says.
“The next minute, I was being bundled into the St Johns Ambulance and on my way to board the rescue helicopter. I don’t remember much more.”
One of the walking party activated their personal locator beacon or PLB, which alerted the local fire brigade and St Johns. Cell phone coverage was sketchy where they were near the bluffs.
“When the helicopter turned up I told them that they were wasting their time on an idiot that had simply fallen over,” Geoff recalls, laughing it off.
“But they were very professional and insisted on making sure that I was okay. They pumped four litres of saline into me by the time we arrived at Whangarei Hospital and from what the doctor said, I needed it.”
The trip to Whangarei was much faster than the four or more hours that it would have taken in the ambulance. And, although his story has a happy ending, Geoff said that you ‘just never know’ and that the Northland Rescue Helicopter is a vital service to have in the region.
“Please donate whatever you can during this year’s appeal. They do a bloody good job and we’re lucky to have them.”