My holiday turned into a nightmare when I lost my footing…
By Kristina Austerberry, 23, from Queensland, Australia
Looking across the calm ocean, I breathed in the salty air. There’s nothing like being out in nature, I thought.
It was the fourth day of my camping trip on the pristine beach at Norval Park, Qld, with my partner Matt, 34.
The closest town was about five miles away but because of the rough terrain, it took about an hour to drive there.
We loved the peace and seclusion.
That morning, Matt headed to the shops for supplies.
I knew he’d be gone for at least three hours so I went for a stroll along the water’s edge.
Noticing the dinghy we used for fishing was caught in driftwood offshore, I texted Matt for advice.
Move the anchor closer up the beach and that should help untangle it, he wrote back a moment later.
Following his instructions, I pulled the anchor out of the sand and repositioned it.
But as I turned around, I tripped over something and crashed to the ground.
That’s embarrassing, I smirked, thankful no-one was around to see me.
As I went to stand up though, I realised I couldn’t move my right leg.
Looking down, I saw the most horrifying sight.
A large, sharp tree branch had pierced through the muscle near my shin and its tip was protruding through my skin.
Blood was pouring out. Amazingly, it didn’t hurt, but I was impaled to the spot.
Panic rushed through me as I realised that I couldn’t move at all.
I was trapped, skewered like a kebab and completely alone! I started frantically texting Matt.
Ambo… bleeding… stick…
After I sent 20 hysterical messages, I realised that the reception was so bad, they weren’t going through.
Stay calm, help will come, I told myself. Even a tiny adjustment caused the skin to tear and a horrible pain to shoot through my body. So I carefully slid my left leg underneath my right to keep it elevated and steady. I knew I desperately needed help before I bled out and lost consciousness.
Dialling emergency services, I said a silent prayer that the call would go through.
‘Hello, do you require police, fire or ambulance?’ a calm voice answered.
I’d never felt so relieved. I explained what had happened as best I could. ‘What’s your location?’ the woman asked.
Then I realised this might be more complicated. The camping area was spread along the beach for miles.
I tried to direct them but without exact coordinates, I knew it would be tricky. The operator stayed on the line, trying to keep me calm.
‘Can you please call my boyfriend and tell him what’s happened,’ I panicked, giving her his number. It was an agonising wait.
Being the middle of summer, the sun was beating down.
I was being cooked!
After half an hour, I was losing hope.
‘They’re right near you now,’ the woman assured me.
‘Can you hear the siren?’ I listened, but all I could hear was the waves.
‘They’re not here!’ I yelled, trying not to cry.
On the other line, Matt was trying to direct them too.
The ambulance drove up and down the beach but they couldn’t find me.
Finally, they called for a helicopter. When it flew overhead, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
After two-and-a-half hours alone on the beach, I was finally going to be freed.
The paramedics gave me a sedative to knock me out while they removed the huge branch from my leg.
Coming to not long after, Matt was by my side.
‘Are you okay?’ he asked, stroking my head. For the first time that day I burst into tears.
The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter flew me to Bundaberg Base Hospital.
I underwent a two-hour surgery to irrigate and clean my leg. I was given 23 stitches, but it was just the beginning of a long and painful recovery.
I’d lost 250mls of blood and had second-degree sunburn with third-degree burns down my left hip and thigh.
After a few days, golf ball size blisters appeared and I had to have them drained and treated at hospital.
I was off work for nearly five months, but I’ve finally made a full recovery.
One thing I’ve learnt is that you should never head to a remote area without knowing the exact GPS coordinates ahead of time.
There are even apps that you can download to tell you this in an emergency. I’m so glad I wasn’t more seriously hurt.
Next time I head to the beach, I hope I can enjoy some kebabs – not become one myself!
My left leg was tiring from holding up the right, but if I so much as flinched, agony would hit me. Glancing down, I felt like I might throw up when I realised flies were gathering on the wound. Even worse, a group of seagulls had begun to circle me, lunging forward to peck at my leg. It was like I was their prey! All I could do was gather handfuls of sand and throw them at the gulls to keep them away.