MY HEAD FELT LIKE A CHOPPER BLADE
WORKING IN THE PUREORA FOREST PARK, DAMIAN FIRTH NEEDED HELP BUT COLLEAGUES HAD DISAPPEARED FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Damian competently leads youth in outdoor pursuits, but while honing his skills during navigation practice, his world was literally put into a spin.
While navigating his way to a clearing, Damian started heading downhill. Another look at the map and the terrain told him it was going to be extremely steep, so he decided to head back up and take a different route.
Clambering over a branch, putting his full weight on it, suddenly, it gave way beneath him. He stumbled and fell and a twig attached to the branch punctured straight through his right ear canal, bursting his eardrum.
“I heard a sound like a vacuum cleaner,” said Damian. “Picking myself up off the ground, the whole world suddenly started spinning and I stumbled again.”
Damien then realised help wasn’t close by as the outdoor pursuit centre was empty.
By chance his phone had rung earlier while he was navigating at a higher point on the track. He knew if he could reach that point, he’d get reception. With a punctured eardrum, nausea and the world in a spin, Damian made the steep 100 metre climb on hands and knees.
Once at the top, Damien grasped for his phone and made a call to colleagues who were airport bound.
His colleagues tracked down an instructor who was luckily still on site. He knew exactly where Damian’s location was in the dense bush and he moved into action.
The rescue helicopter was soon hovering above the canopy and landed in a nearby clearing. A medic was lowered down in a harness through the trees to assess Damian. He was then winched to safety.
“I felt like a chopper blade myself – my head was spinning around as they winched me up,” he laughed at the memory.
Damian was flown to Rotorua Hospital. Initially he did have some hearing in the damaged ear, but that is no longer the case.
Damian is reflective as he concludes: “You’re an outdoor instructor, into outdoor pursuits; rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking and you do something like trip over in the bush!”
“It makes you stop and look at your life. Sometimes your life is so darn busy. I have changed some things as a result of my experience.”