Survival

Teen tragedy – A $10 bet put me in ICU

'No-one is bulletproof'

Isaac Ebeling and his girlfriend Resha had already planned their future together. Like most 17-year-olds, they thought they were invincible.

But in the blink of an eye, their worlds were turned upside down when a simple mistake almost cost Isaac his life…

Here, Resha tells the story in her own words.

Growing up in the NSW Blue Mountains, I’d spent my life exploring in nature. My friends and I especially loved hanging out at a nearby lookout that locals called Flat Rock.

The spot was perched atop a huge cliff face and was the perfect place to watch the sun set each night.

So, in January this year, my boyfriend Isaac, then 17, friend Hannah, 17, and I headed to our favourite spot. It was a hot summer’s day and the end of school holidays were drawing closer, so we grabbed a pizza and watched the sun fade.

As Hannah and I sat chatting, Isaac walked to the edge for a better view. ‘Don’t get too close,’ Hannah warned. ‘If you fall, you’ll die,’ I  added.

Unfazed by the danger, Isaac was confident. ‘I bet you $10 I’d live,’ he joked.

In that moment, he suddenly lost his footing.

Falling backwards over the cliff, I watched in horror as he vanished from sight.

Frozen in terror, I heard the crunches of every leaf, branch and limb as he tumbled down the cliff face. Then, it was followed by an eerie silence.

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Isaac sitting at Lincoln’s Rock (Credit: Supplied)

Please be alive, I fretted.

Rushing to the edge, I could see his battered body  curled up in a ball. But there was no movement. He’d dropped around 30 metres through trees and over rocks, before stopping on another slope.

‘Isaac?’ I called out. ‘Are you okay?’ But there was no answer.

Desperate to get to him, I urged Hannah to call for help, while I headed down to be with Isaac. But Hannah and I had left our phones in the car and, with Isaac’s battery down to only one per cent charge, we needed a miracle.

Somehow, I scrambled down the near vertical cliff face as Isaac let out an agonising groan. Then he started screaming. ‘Get me out!’ he cried.

‘It’s okay, I’m coming,’ I vowed.

Once I reached his mangled body, I realised just how badly he’d been hurt. There were deep cuts in both his shoulders and blood was pouring out of his head.

‘I’m here now,’ I soothed, as I gently placed his head in my lap and applied pressure to his wounds.

When he started to cough up blood, I realised he must have internal injuries too. And as he faded in and out of consciousness, I became terrified I would lose him.

‘Don’t you dare leave me here on the side of a cliff. I need you,’ I begged him.

I could see he was scared, so I knew I needed to be strong for both of us, but on the inside I was trembling.

Thankfully, Hannah had managed to contact emergency services who were assessing his condition over the phone.

We didn’t know that the official name of the lookout was Lincoln’s Rock, so Hannah had to run back up the road to give them directions.

‘Where are they?’ Isaac asked desperately.

By now, the sun was setting and we were both hot and sticky from the blood and sweat. If he started closing his eyes, I would yell at him to keep him awake.

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Resha begged Isaac to stay awake (Credit: Supplied)

When help arrived around 50 minutes later, it felt like we’d been down there for an eternity.

As the paramedics prepared Isaac to be winched to safety, I returned to the top of the cliff where my mum Janelle and best friend Cameron were waiting. Hugging them, I tried to process what had happened.

What if he never walks again or suffers from brain damage? I panicked.

Isaac was in a critical condition, so he was airlifted to Liverpool Hospital where he was placed in ICU.

That night, Mum and I stayed in the waiting room while Isaac’s family stayed by his side.

As the hours ticked by, my mind went into overdrive. Isaac was my first love. We’d even spoken about getting married and starting a family one day. But now I was being forced to imagine a life without him.

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Resha couldn’t imagine a life without Isaac (Credit: Supplied)

When I finally saw him the following day, his body was snaked in wires.

Doctors said he’d suffered lacerations to his kidney and liver, had a punctured lung, 11 broken ribs, a broken foot, and nine cracked vertebrae in his back.

He was incredibly lucky to be alive.

When his eyes flickered open, we hugged each other for a long time. ‘I love you,’ he mouthed.

Then, when he could talk again, he said I’d saved his life because I’d kept speaking to him.

He was sent home three weeks later but had to be careful not to put weight on his foot.

Thankfully, after six months, his body had fully healed and he was back to  his former active lifestyle playing  sports.

Then in July, seven months after the accident, we were reunited with the paramedics who rescued him. ‘I’m extremely appreciative,’ Isaac said, thanking the team.

Now, 10 months on, I still cringe when I see people standing too close to the edge of viewpoints or sharing pictures of themselves in dangerous places like this.

No photo is worth risking your life for. Isaac was one of the lucky ones.

Isaac says:

I remember falling off the cliff but everything after that is a blur.

I’m so grateful to Resha and the emergency services that saved my life.

It’s so important for young people to remember that no-one is bulletproof.

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