How a freak wind ripped off my hand


Harriet’s life changed forever on the river…

Here, Harriet Davis, 12, from the Blue Mountains, NSW, tells the story in her own words.

Catching the ball in my left hand, I spun it around and fired it into the ring.

‘Great shot, Haz!’ my twin sister, Audrey, 12, cheered.

I’d been playing netball for six years and loved practising in the backyard.

‘Let’s take the boat out on Saturday,’ our dad, Stuart, called to us from inside.

family photo
Me and Audrey with mum

As a police officer, Dad had a busy schedule, so whenever he was off he made sure we had fun.

When Saturday arrived, in September this year, Dad, his partner Mel, her son Brady, Audrey and I piled on board.

Out on the Nepean River, Dad inflated our tube and attached it to the rope at the back of the boat.

We spent all day taking turns. Gripping the handles as tight as I could, I bounced around over the waves. This is great! I grinned.

Finishing up later, Dad helped us drag the huge float back on the deck. ‘One more turn, please?’ Audrey asked. ‘Okay,’ Dad smiled.

So we took off in the boat to find a good spot on the river. As we sped along, the rope from the float was flapping in the wind.

‘Haz, can you hold onto that?’ Dad asked. Picking up the long rope, I wrapped it loosely around my left forearm just above my wrist.

Family photo 2
Me, Dad, Audrey and Georgia

Suddenly, a freak gust of wind caught the tube and sent it flying, dragging me with it.

In a flash, the rope fastened around my wrist before I crashed into the river below.

Opening my eyes under the water, I was surrounded by blood. Is that mine? I wondered. I didn’t feel injured…

After about 20 seconds, I managed to wriggle free of the rope and kick up to the surface. But the boat was about 30 metres away.

They can’t have seen what happened, I realised, sticking my arm up to wave. That’s when I saw it. My left hand was missing! The rope must’ve ripped it off, I realised, in horror. ‘Help!’ I screamed.

Turning the boat around, Dad raced back towards me, then he grabbed my right arm and pulled me on board.

Audrey squealed, seeing blood pouring from my wrist. ‘Harriet!’ she said, bursting into hysterics.

Grabbing a T-shirt, Mel quickly tied it above my elbow. ‘Daddy, am I going to die?’ I asked. ‘No darling, you’re not, but your life is going to be changed forever,’ he replied.

His calm, gentle voice instantly made me feel safe and, weirdly, I couldn’t feel any pain.

Just then, a jet-skier pulled up beside us.

‘We’ve had an amputation,’ Mel said, helping me onto the back of the ski.

She jumped on behind me and we raced for the boat ramp where emergency services were waiting.

A police officer ran into the water, scooped me up and took me to the paramedics.‘Will I die?’ I asked again. ‘No sweetie, you’re going to be fine,’ he said.

At hospital, I was met by a team of 30 doctors.

When my mum, Belinda, rushed into my room looking worried, I smiled up at her.

Invictus Games
Me at the Invictus Games with a fellow amputee

‘You’re incredible,’ she said. Then I was taken to theatre to clean the wound.

After, Mum stroked my hair and I could tell she was scared. But I still wasn’t in any pain at all!

Forty-eight hours later, I went in for another surgery where they filed down the bone and closed the wound.

Later, doctors and Mum sat me down and explained that police divers had been searching for my hand.

If they found my missing limb in six hours they would have been able to reattach it, but they hadn’t. So I started imagining life without my dominant hand. I wasn’t upset though.

‘I’m just going to have to learn to shoot goals with my right arm,’ I said.

‘You’ll pick it up in no time,’ my sister Georgia, 17, said.

Looking down, I saw a bandage where my left hand should’ve been. I couldn’t believe what had happened. But my hospital room soon filled with friends and family. And just five days later I decided to do a one-handed cartwheel.

‘Harriet, no,’ the nurses said.

Not listening, I cartwheeled on the hospital balcony as the ward erupted into laughter!

Six days on, I was allowed home, and a month later I walked proudly into school, as everyone rushed to see if I was okay.

Now I’m getting the hang of using my right hand for everything.

I practised writing with it immediately, sending thank you cards to everyone involved in my rescue. I’m even playing netball again and Audrey is helping me practise in the yard.

‘That’s 300!’ I said, counting my goals one afternoon.

Police Legacy have started a fundraiser to help with my ongoing medical costs.

I cannot thank them enough for everything they’ve done for my family.

I don’t care what other people think, this is me now and I am so grateful to have been given this second chance at life.

To help, go to

To hear more from incredible Harriet, tune in below to our gripping podcast How I Survived. Before you do, grab the tissues!

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