Slip of the foot ruins everything


“A gloriously beautiful day,” is how Fay Selby-Law describes her climb up Tauhara Mountain. 

After drinking in ‘amazing views,’ Fay and her daughter, Mihi, took a literal drink in a little stream during descent.  One slip on a steep gradient was all it took, and the gloriously beautiful day disintegrated in a spit second. 

Fay had snapped her ankle.  The climb was over.  As Mihi was phoning for help, someone was approaching – a policeman who worked in the local rescue squad. 

“Forget anything except a helicopter,” Mike stated matter-of-factly, as he continued down the mountain to arrange a rescue, leaving behind his weight pack as a prop for Fay, to prevent further sliding. 

“When I was told that a helicopter would come, I decided that it wasn’t going to work.  You can’t land a chopper under dense canopy!  What do they think they’re going to do!” 

“Of course, I’d know best wouldn’t I!” Fay laughs at the memory. 

Passing Good Samaritans heading down the mountain deposited articles of clothing beside Fay as she shivered in her singlet and shorts. 

Mike and his brother re-appeared and reassured Fay that a rescue helicopter was on the way. “This still isn’t going to work,” she thought dubiously. 

Very soon, the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter could be heard circling the mountain.  A stranger came upon them on his way up.  He had worked in Australia directing helicopters, so helped with communication between ground and air to bring the helicopter in while everyone gave trees a vigorous shake. 

Those gathered on the mountain broke branches to give the Critical Care Flight Paramedic ease of access.   “What joy when I saw a paramedic coming down on the winch!” she exclaimed. 

Continuing an incredible sequence of events, a nurse and doctor appeared on the scene on their mountain climb.  They assisted the CCFP as he administered pain relief, splintered the break and prepared the patient to be winched. 

“As I was being winched up above the canopy under the hovering aircraft, I was thinking, “This is the only time in my life that I’m going to see this amazing birds-eye-view of the sun setting on the other side of Lake Taupo – and it was incredible!” 

Fay laughs at the memory of those on the ground holding up cell phones, one apparently commenting: “I’m supposed to be going out for dinner but this is really so exciting, I’ll just have to be late.” 

“All my doubts about a helicopter rescue…they can’t do this, they can’t do that. But of course, they could, because they’re so skilled and experienced.  We’re immensely lucky to have the rescue helicopter service.” 

At Rotorua Hospital Fay had surgery on her shredded ligaments and tendons and a pin and plate were inserted. 

“I could have been lying on that mountain for hours waiting.  Without the rescue helicopter, I would’ve been carried down the mountain and it wouldn’t have been fun.  I couldn’t imagine what we would have done without the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter.”