Patient Story -

Pleasant bushwalk ends in emergency airlift

What started as a pleasant bushwalk in Girraween National Park ended in an emergency airlift for Keith Alcock.

Brisbane’s Keith and Judy Alcock and their 12-year-old son Matthew visited Girraween National Park at Stanthorpe in July 2006. Girraween National Park is known for its beautiful flora and spectacular granite rock formations, with Castle Rock being its signature rock formation.

Castle Rock is about an hour walk into the park, and when the Alcock family finally got to Castle Rock, Keith climbed onto a nearby set of rocks about four metres off the ground to take some photos of Judy and Matthew with Castle Rock. Satisfied with his photos, Keith was climbing down from the rock when he slipped and fell off the back of the rock, down a 20 metre cliff.

Keith’s wife Judy quickly climbed down to where Keith lay. He was disorientated and confused, and there was a lot of blood everywhere from a head wound. Judy helped Keith back up the slope. They soon realised he was badly injured, so he couldn’t walk out of the park.

Keith suffered a fractured skull, a broken arm and whiplash. At the time, he was afraid he had hurt his neck badly because of the pain from the whiplash.

Keith and Judy’s mobile phone had no signal, but fortunately a man close by had a satellite phone and was able to call for help. The man sat with Keith, keeping him conscious and alert while they waited for help to come.

During the afternoon, a phone call let them know that RACQ CareFlight was being dispatched to assist but the flight would take 45 minutes. In the meantime, the SES and Queensland Ambulance arrived, and were able to treat his pain.

When RACQ CareFlight arrived, they winched a doctor and a paramedic to help Keith where he was. The medical team treated Keith and prepared him to be winched back up into the aircraft on a stretcher.

Keith was airlifted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane and admitted to intensive care. Keith’s injuries kept him in hospital for 10 days. For months afterwards, he attended physiotherapy at the Princess Alexandra Hospital as an outpatient.

“When I think about the moment I found out CareFlight had taken off, I still get emotional. It was like the light at the end of a tunnel, because I was in a lot of pain, and very very scared about my injuries,” Keith said.

“It does strike me that I got off lightly, I could have been dead, or broken my neck.”