High price: David Blackney, of Goonellabah, pictured in Lismore yesterday with his wife Sherrell and son Jake, on his way home from hospital after further follow-up treatment.
High price: David Blackney, of Goonellabah, pictured in Lismore yesterday with his wife Sherrell and son Jake, on his way home from hospital after further follow-up treatment. Jacklyn Wagner

Samaritan suffers from brave act

WHEN David Blackney jumped into rough seas to help secure a vessel swamped by waves at Evans Head in January, little did he know his selfless act would ruin his life.

Four months later, the 43-year-old Goonellabah father of six still cannot work or drive and his wife, Sherrell, is struggling to care for him and their children without an income.

Mr Blackney now suffers daily epileptic seizures from nearly drowning after becoming entangled in rope during the rescue attempt.

He has also suffered organ damage from his body’s high acidic pH levels during the ordeal.

Despite his ongoing trauma, Mr Blackney said that in the same situation he would probably do it again.

“If I was put on the spot again I would want to help – it’s instinct really,” he said.

“You don’t think about the consequences at a time like that.

“I just thought I’d jump over the side, attach the line and tow them out of trouble.”

Mr Blackney was fishing outside the Evans Head bar on a mate’s boat, the Julie, when they received a distress call from a four-metre aluminium runabout, the Nikkiana, with two people on board, shortly after sunrise on Wednesday, January 13.

It is thought that the Nikkiana’s skipper became disorientated in the dark before being caught in the surf at Chinamans Beach, to the south of Evans Head.

When the boat’s skipper realised he was almost on the beach he turned the craft back to sea, but was swamped by breaking waves.

The Julie responded to their distress call and was sitting just beyond the breakers when Mr Blackney jumped from the deck with a rope in an effort to tow the distressed vessel to safety.

While he cannot remember any of it, Mr Blackney became entangled in the rope and was pulled under causing him to inhale sea water and lose consciousness.

He eventually made it to the beach where he collapsed in shallow water.

“All I remember after getting caught in the rope was waking up on the beach with the ambulance officers and the Westpac rescue helicopter crew,” he said.

“The guys I originally went to help said I staggered to the shore and collapsed. They dragged me on to the beach and propped me up and said I vomited up saltwater.”

Mr Blackney was stabilised and airlifted to Lismore Base Hospital where he was treated for a week.

“After getting discharged from hospital I went downtown to the shops and was hit by the first seizure,” he said.

“I thought it may have been a reaction to the week in bed so I went home, but the seizures kept coming.

“I went back to Lismore hospital and they sent me by ambulance to the Gold Coast Hospital for more tests, but the doctors couldn’t find anything and the seizures kept increasing.”

Mr Blackney is now confined to home where he tries to help his wife, but continues to suffer about nine seizures a day.

“The doctors hope theseizures will settle down by themselves, but who knows,” he said.

“What bothers me most is the strain on Sherrell. She’s never out of the car driving the kids around or taking me to the doctors.

“Our kids are between three and 18 years of age and the older ones are helping out a lot.

“It’s very frustrating and I do get depressed, but you’ve got to keep going.

“At least I didn’t get eaten by that big hammerhead shark that was out there at the time.”



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