A determined hiker amazed doctors with his perseverance after he refused to give up hope during a two-day crawl through the Australian wilderness with a fractured leg and wrist.
“I’ve never heard any such survival effort with two broken limbs,” Dr. Nicola Ward, an orthopedic surgeon, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She treated 54-year-old Neil Parker for multiple injuries during the days that followed his incredible journey.
“Essentially, with an ankle fracture like he’s got, the limb is a deadweight and useless,” she said. “You can’t walk on it, you can’t put weight through it and you need to drag it.”
And “drag it” is exactly what Parker had done.
The experienced bushwalker had set out alone for a trek along Mount Nebo, a trail located northwest of Brisbane, Australia. He was expecting a few hours of beautiful scenery and quiet, but what followed was a nightmare that nearly cost him his life.
While admiring the falls along Cabbage Tree Creek, the hiker slipped and fell twenty feet into the rocky gully.
“I climbed the waterfall many times before, and this time, with it being so dry and the lime on the rock, instead of sticking, slipped and gave way,” Parker said. “I started sliding down the face of the rock.”
He slid down the surface and landed in the creek at the bottom of the ravine.
The accident left his lower leg “clean snapped in half,” he told the BBC.
Wracked with pain, the hiker managed to pull his phone from his pack to try to call for help. He quickly discovered that the thick walls of the canyon blocked any signal. Deciding that he would try to climb to where a signal could be reached, he moved to tuck the phone somewhere secure and accidentally knocked it into the water.
Stranded and without any hope of communicating with civilization, Parker had to decide what to do next. Although it would have been easy to give up hope, he thought of his family back home waiting for him.
“First thing I thought was I’m not going to die out here,” he said. “I’m going to live.”
Realizing that he alone was capable of getting himself out of the scrape, the determined dad made a plan.
“The only way I’m going to raise the alarm is I’m going to have climb or scramble back out the rocks to get back out of here,” he recalled saying to himself. “And I thought, ‘the only way to get rescued is self-rescue.’”
He started the painstaking journey back to the top, hoping to eventually reach a clearing. As a member of a bushwalking club, Parker knew from experience that his chances of being rescued would improve if he could make it to a place where the trees weren’t as thick. But he would have to crawl the entire way.
“I had to carry my leg — and legs are very heavy when they’re not connected to anything,” he told ABC.
He described the journey as “trying to pick [the leg] up and get over rock and then use this elbow and this arm and just constantly struggling.”
Using hiking sticks and what limited first aid supplies he had, Parker created a makeshift splint.
He told the BBC that he had to scramble “inch by inch,” hauling his leg with him. The work was exhausting.
“I’d get about a metre, a metre-and-a-half, each time before I had to stop and take a break.”
The only food he brought with him for the hike was a protein bar, some nuts and a few pieces of candy. Parker was losing energy, but his thoughts of his loved ones kept him going.
Back at home, his worried family had contacted authorities, sending searchers out to look for him. None of them knew where he had gone, but with the help of members of his bushwalking club, they had a decent idea where to look.
Rescuers eventually spotted Parker once he made it to higher ground. It took him two days to crawl around two miles to where he was eventually airlifted to a hospital for recovery.
“I was thinking that I was never going to get there,” the hiker said.
He will likely be in recovery for at least ten weeks, according to Ward, before he will be able to put any weight on the snapped leg.
While the miraculous survival and Parker’s determination left doctors and rescuers stunned, Parker is just thankful to have more years to spend with his family.
“I wanted to be around for my kids,” he said.
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