When Neil Parker left for a solo hiking trip over the weekend, he probably expected to return with both his legs.
Luckily, he did — just one wasn’t fully attached to the rest of his body.
The 54-year-old Australian was out for a walk at Cabbage Tree Creek on Mount Nebo northwest of Brisbane when he slipped and fell 19 feet down a waterfall.
What was meant to be a three-hour hiking trip became a harrowing two-day crawl to safety.
“My left foot just below my ankle, clean snapped in half,” he told news.com.au. “So the whole bottom of my leg came loose.”
With no other options to call for help after losing his phone in a creek, Parker was forced to crawl to safety with his broken leg.
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“I had to carry my leg, and legs are very heavy when they’re not connected to anything, and trying to pick it up and get over rocks,” he continued.
“I would get about a metre, a metre and a half before I needed a break.”
The waterfall he fell from was one Parker had previously climbed, however he said this time was different.
“I climbed the waterfall many times before, and this time, with it being so dry, the lichen on the rock, instead of sticking, slipped and gave way,” he explained.
“I slid about 20 feet, cartwheeled and slammed into the rock and then landed in the creek on the bottom.”
While attempting to call for help, Parker’s phone slid from his hand into a creek nearby.
An experienced guide with Brisbane Bushwalkers, Parker knew what to do. He splinted his own leg with snakebite bandages and walking poles, dragging his injured leg as he crawled for help.
When he didn’t show up for work on Monday, his ex-wife was called and a search party was deployed. On Tuesday afternoon, a search helicopter spotted Parker and took him to Princess Alexandra Hospital for emergency surgery.
Parker said his first mistake was not telling anyone where he was going.
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On top of that, he also wasn’t carrying an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB). Parker said he had left it with his ex-wife when they separated.
But family was what kept him pushing through, he said — the idea of not seeing his kids again was too painful, more so than the leg that had completely disconnected from his body.
“I was getting very emotional, thinking, ‘This is not a nice way to die, just lying here,’” he said.
Parker’s orthopedic surgeon Nicola Ward told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he faced at least eight weeks of recovery.