Three Hunter ambulance officers are being recognised for their bravery after they retrieved an elderly fisherman who fell down a three-metre deep hole and became trapped at Stockton breakwall earlier this year.
The 85-year-old man was found in a critical condition on the afternoon of April 7 and died in hospital a few days later, but the actions of the paramedics gave him the best chance of surviving the horrific fall.
Inspector Mick O'Connor and paramedics Vivienne Velt and Jacob Paff will each receive a NSW Ambulance citation for courage on Friday.
The citation is reserved for NSW Ambulance officers who display courage in dangerous circumstances, which pose a substantial risk of injury.
Ms Velt and Mr Paff had just finished responding to a drug overdose call-out when they acted on a report that someone had fallen on Stockton breakwall about 2.30pm.
The gate was locked when they arrived, so the pair took a spine board and walked about 800 metres along the breakwall until they discovered the seriously injured man trapped about three metres down a hole between the rocks.
"We didn't know where he actually was," Ms Velt told the Newcastle Herald.
"We had no-one waving us down and we didn't even know if he was actually on that breakwall.
"He was on his back with his head wedged between two rocks, so he was very difficult to manage as far as his airway and trying to keep his neck stabilised.
"He was bleeding from the back of the head."
Ms Velt and Mr Paff climbed into the hole and took some observations.
She said the man was "unconscious and unresponsive".
They called for a medical team and a Fire and Rescue NSW crew also arrived at the scene to help with the extrication.
Inspector O'Connor got to the breakwall gate and unlocked it before he drove an ambulance to where the operation was taking place.
"We got the spine board down there but we couldn't physically get him on there to get him out because there wasn't enough room," Ms Velt said.
"It was just a matter of stabilising him and keeping him in the condition he was in, and hopefully he didn't de-stabilise any further."
Inspector O'Connor said the man was taken to John Hunter Hospital where he died a few days later.
"For us, we still take some comfort in the fact that we managed to get him out of there and to hospital, so at least there was a chance and his family could be there with him to say goodbye," Inspector O'Connor said.
"Sometimes patient injuries just surpass our abilities. We can't save everyone, but we can still make small differences to family members."
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