December 1, 2019
“Mum. Mum! MUM!!!”
Linda Dunn’s brief moment of solitude on the beach was broken by her daughter’s screams.
“There was a real strange tone to Yasmin’s voice,” Linda recalls of her middle child’s cries for help, “There wasn’t absolute panic in her voice, but I knew something was up!”
Linda’s gut instinct was right. What was meant to be the start of another perfect day on holiday, had turned to custard in a matter of minutes.
It was Wednesday 10th January 2018 and the Dunn family were two days into their summer break. David and Linda, sweethearts since their teens, married 18 years, were staying at a friend’s bach on Rakino Island with their children, Joe (12 years), Yasmin (9) and Katy (8). It was their first time on the island and, by all accounts, everything was going swimmingly well.
Linda packed a picnic and the family went down to the beach while David went to retrieve the family’s little fishing boat moored offshore.
“We love to fish and get out and about. We don’t do it as often as we’d like,” Linda says, “We hoped to look for kina, and mussels, and explore.”
While the family waited for David, the kids spotted a swing rope down one end of the beach. Joe stayed close to his mum, but Katy and Yasmin had spotted a track beyond the swing. Curiosity got the better of the girls. Exploring is what the family loved to do. As far as the girls were concerned, it had already begun. Sadly, it would end in tears seconds later.
Linda heard Yasmin’s scream and had to move fast, but she’d had ruptured her Achilles heel recently and it slowed her down. Linda called out to Joe to go to his sister first. Linda went as fast as she could, but when she heard Joe yelling too, she quickened her pace.
When Linda saw Yasmin, she was shocked.
Yasmin had tripped and fallen forward and impaled her lower left leg on a jagged branch, recently pruned, but very sharp, sticking out of a tree stump. Yasmin was on her elbows and knees, leaning forward, and in absolute agony.
“Even though I’ve done first aid, and I knew I shouldn’t take the branch out, it did cross my mind – as a parent you just go from one thing to the next trying to figure out what to do,” Linda recalls, “I realised pretty quickly that I needed to ask for help. I just wasn’t the right person to be making the decisions at that point in time.”
Two people, one a mum, ran from the beach as well.
"It was a bit of a blur really," Linda says, "I asked Joe to get Dad. What I didn’t realise, at the time, was that he ran straight to the water and swam out to get him. I was so proud of my son.”
With the help of others, Linda did her best to prop her daughter up.
“I couldn’t risk her sliding forward and the branch coming out. Another mum came and helped too. She positioned herself under Yasmin so she could lie on top of her and stop sliding. Another member of the small island community suggested getting a saw to cut the branch. We looked at each other and said we needed some advice and that’s when they called 111. They confirmed to leave the branch in. They also let me know that the rescue helicopter was on its way.”
Linda said she felt “absolute relief” when she heard the chopper was coming.
“I did question if this was a big enough emergency for a helicopter to come out. I felt a bit silly thinking that, but that’s what runs through your mind. I didn’t want to bother anyone.”
Any doubts Linda had, disappeared once David arrived at the scene.
“He’s quite a tough guy, but when I saw the look on his face, I knew the right decision was made.”
When Intensive Care Paramedic Chris Deacon arrived with the crew Linda says he was “amazing” and “had a certain authority about him.”
“He knew what to do and he would tell others what to do to get the best result possible.”
It was Chris who lopped the branch off and then he turned to several other nasty branches.
“That’s just horrible,” he said as he tended to them. “We all agreed that the bush area was like the house of horrors.”
As Yasmin and Linda boarded the chopper, David “dealt” to the rest.
At Starship Hospital, Yasmin’s surgery went well.
“I was told the branch had missed her muscles, her nerves, her arteries and her bones, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. Yasmin still gets a bit upset when she stops to think about it. We can usually fix this with a cuddle.”
As traumatic as the experience was, the family will always remember the kindness of strangers that day.
The family now support the Trust’s work as volunteers. We really appreciate their kindness too.
If you would like to donate some of your time to support the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter's efforts, please contact Volunteers Coordinator Debbie Bell on (09) 950-7205.