New Zealand paramedic receives award for six-hour rescue of Israeli tourist

April 15, 2018 by Keren Cook
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A St John intensive care paramedic has received the New Zealand Search and Rescue Council’s gold award for a six-hour rescue mission last year.

Mandy Jackson and Joe Adam

Steve Orr rescued an Israeli man, unconscious near a backcountry hut in the Whanganui National Park in 2017 and says the man “wouldn’t have survived the night, he would have stopped breathing,” had he not been rescued.

Orr, by chance was working at the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter early evening in May 2017 and was the first to respond when the Rescue Coordination Centre alerted them of an emergency beacon that had gone off at the campsite in Whanganui National Park.

The intensive care paramedic realised the job could involve anything from a plane crash to a false alarm and called Joe Adam and Mandy Jackson who operates the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge buried deep in the park.

Both Mandy Jackson and Joe Adam, have received New Zealand’s top search and rescue award for helping save the Israeli tourists life last year.

Adam called through while the rescue helicopter was in the air, saying there was an Israeli tourist at the Tieke Kainga Campsite who appeared to have taken an overdose and was unconscious.

When they arrived Orr found the tourist in a serious condition and put the man in the recovery position on a mattress.  The paramedic says the remote location put the tourist in a life threatening condition.

“When found he was cold, he had very low blood pressure and very poor respiratory effort.”

The man warmed up, and was given fluids and medication to reverse the effects of the overdose.

“He started to wake up, he started to moan and groan and his blood pressure improved.”

Challenging weather conditions, and a heavy mist grounded the helicopter and time was limited with limited medication available.

“We would’ve run out of medicine, oxygen and battery power for the defibrillator.”

After consulting with Adam, the decision was made to take the tourist down the river in Adam’s jet boat to Pipriki where they would meet an ambulance.

The limited visibility and fog was a challenge: “It wasn’t so much that it was pitch black, it was the fact that the fog was right down virtually to water level. There was nothing, it was just mist right in my face,” Jackson said

The journey took more than an hour and a half rather than the usual 20 minutes, supplies of medication and portable oxygen ran our and Orr had to use a bag valve mask to breath for the patient who was close to respiratory arrest.

The paramedic says it was a welcome sight to see the ambulance waiting for them at the boat ramp, however it wasn’t equipped with specialist medicine supplies.

The patient stopped breathing once inside the ambulance and Orr had to insert a breathing tube into his lungs and hand breathe squeezing the bag every 6 seconds for more than 2 hours until they breached Whanganui hospital.

Orr says: “It was the most challenging and dynamic really because the situation changed and you had to keep changing your plan to meet those challenges.”

He said the rescue experience tested all the skills he had learnt in his 23 years as a St John paramedic.

“I have been very fortunate to have worked alongside some very skilled and experienced people and they have passed on knowledge to me and you are thinking of those people and what they would have done in the same situation.”

In Wellington this week,  Orr, Adam and Jackson were recognised with the country’s highest award for search and rescues.

Duncan Ferner, New Zealand Search and Rescue Council secretariat manager, said it was great to recognize the skill and commitment shown during the operation.

“The decisions made during this rescue highlight the high levels of skill we ask of our volunteers – and the extraordinary generosity of New Zealanders who give their time in the service of others.”

Comments

One Response to “New Zealand paramedic receives award for six-hour rescue of Israeli tourist”
  1. Paul Patterson says:

    Having worked alongside some very talented Intensive Care Paramedics and Helicopter SAR teams over more than 30 years in ‘front-line’ service, I can confirm the comments Steve Orr has made of this mission. You never feel more ‘alone’ than in the middle of nowhere knowing that you don’t have sufficient resources for your patient to last the distance. All you have left in these situations is the skill, experience and foresight you have learned from those talented practitioners who have gone before you.
    Well done Steve, if it were me (or mine) in need of care in a remote location, I’d be both gratified and relieved to see you get out of the Rescue Helicopter. Our community is lucky to have you on watch.

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