Hero saves woman after freak resort accident
WARNING: Graphic Content
AN ARMY veteran and a "dream team" of bystanders and paramedics are being praised for saving the life of a 70-year-old woman whose jugular vein was severed in a freak accident.
Keith Hamelink, 51, stuck his fingers inside Susan Kendall's throat to stem the bleeding after she tripped head first through a glass door at a Port Douglas resort.
Far North ambulance officer Ian Day described it as one of the most horrific scenes he's encountered in his 38 years as a paramedic. He arrived at the Reef Resort to find Ms Kendall lying in a pool of blood.
First respondent Mr Hamelink - an Army veteran who the Queensland Ambulance Service credit for saving her life - had just finished taking a swim when he witnessed the event that still keeps him up at night.
"I had to unpeg her head from the glass which was wedged inside her neck," he said.
"The neck wound was an inch wide, it was like her head was coming off."
Mr Hamelink, his assistant first aiders and paramedics are being praised for their heroic actions in the traumatic 40 minutes that followed - actions that proved the difference between life and death.
"I flipped her over and could see the blood spurting out the jugular so I've stuck my fingers inside the jugular," Mr Hamelink said.
"There was a flap open on her head and another one on her chin; I just kept finding more holes and the blood kept growing and pulsing out.
"I spent the first 20 minutes looking in her eyes to keep her calm but I thought she wasn't going to make it."
Reef Resort manager Dana Clark and Argentinian backpacker Niko Jurisic - who had fortuitously completed a first aid certificate in January - were next to arrive, the latter offering words of reassurance as towels were packed onto wounds in between a frantic triple-0 call.
The emergency medical dispatcher at the end of the line, Jan Wheeler, said Mr Hamelink's calmness under pressure was remarkable.
"It was a strong response. In that situation, having that calm, strong voice kept everybody else from getting too heightened," she said.
Ms Kendall admits she thought she was going to die.
"There is no other way to put it," she said.
"But with Keith and Ian I knew that if I could just hold on to them, they weren't going to let me.
"It was a strange feeling of thinking if I just hold on tight, I'm going to survive."
Ms Kendall spent more than six hours in surgery repairing her head and neck and seven days in intensive care following the incident, which occurred on August 15.
Mr Day said the first aid administered before his arrival was the definition of "life saving".
"It was a confronting scene and experience for everyone," he said.
"As a single officer in this instance, I relied on these bystanders to perform the basic first aid that allows us to do all the extra things.
"It was a dream team in the end.
"The way everyone played a role all contributed to her still being with us today."
Originally published as Hero saves woman after freak resort accident