First Aid (Part 2) [65]

By Michael Steinfeld

I wrote in the last magazine about the need to attend a first aid course. I passed the theory and obtained my certificate. This is a story about its real life application in the backcountry of the Kooplin Gorge of Kakadu National Park.

Audrey and I planned to do a bush walk through the gorge, swim and to view some Aboriginal art. We headed off in the early morning before the temperature reached 39 degrees. We had packed food and water, but we left our first aid kit and Eperb in the car. (Lesson 1, always take first aid equipment with you, no point having it in the car.)

We were about two hours into the strenuous uphill rock hopping walk when I heard Audrey’s cry for help. I ran back to find her clutching her ankle after she had tripped on a slippery rock. We were on a rock platform about 100 metres from the gorge in the scorching mid-day sun.

What to do? Audrey immediately knew that she had a fractured her leg and could not walk. It was early in the day and no need to panic. (Lesson 2 always start out any adventure in the early morning). I found pieces of wood and fashioned them into a splint and tied a towel and clothing around the leg to secure it. Then it was necessary to get Audrey out of the sun, which meant she had to scramble on her behind about fifty metres over rock to the edge of the gorge so that she could see the gorge and I could find her again. I left her the food and drink and then headed out of the gorge. It was difficult as there was no path and I was required to jump over large rocks which came to dead ends as I was crossing the gorge. I was acutely aware of Lesson 3; you must not rush, you must make rational decisions and take all precautions to ensure that in the act of rescue that you don’t put yourself in danger.

I arrived back at the car an hour and a bit later thoroughly dehydrated and hot. There was a radio emergency beacon at the site, which required the glass to be broken. I relayed the message and within 10 minutes an evacuation plan was put together by the national park, which required a helicopter and nurse to fly from Jabaru 150km away. Some three hours after leaving Audrey, the helicopter landed at the site above her and she was carried out and flown to Darwin hospital where the fracture was confirmed.

Kayaking has taught us to be confident in the face of adversity, how to remain calm and act rationally in the face of an unexpected accident. Otherwise, Kakadu is a great place to visit but accidents do happen.