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Horse-fall survivor Emma Botfield raising funds for Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service

IT is just over three years since the world changed irrevocably for Moree equestrienne Emma Botfield.

Shortly after dawn on Thursday, July 20, 2017, Emma, an accomplished horsewoman with years of horse-riding experience, was preparing for her regular morning ride prior to starting work at Moree Veterinary Hospital.

A ride on her beloved gelding Norton was the perfect way to start the day on a brisk Moree winter’s morning.

Emma saddled Norton as she normally would. She strapped on her helmet and double-checked all riding gear.

It was a routine she knew well.

However, not long after galloping off the unexpected happened.

Emma fell from Norton; a shocking fall that resulted in traumatic brain injury.

Many hands saved Emma’s life that horrific morning.

The appropriate steps taken by the first people to arrive at the scene and the Ambulance Service which arrived within minutes set in motion a life-saving chain that included the brilliant, skilful professionals at Moree Hospital as well as the Westpac Rescue Helicopter team who transported Emma to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital.

It has been a long road to recovery and Emma has never forgotten the life-saving help and support she received from health professionals, friends and family, and complete and utter strangers.

Emma Botfield in action. Emma is one of nearly 100 participants in the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service’s Rise for Rescue fund-raising drive, where participants are asked to complete a minimum of 30 minutes of activity every day in November at sunrise.

Although not quite fully recovered from the accident, Emma is back in the saddle and back at work at Moree Veterinary Hospital.

And she has now embarked upon a campaign to raise awareness and much-needed funds for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

Emma is one of nearly 100 participants in the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service’s Rise for Rescue fund-raising drive, where participants are asked to complete a minimum of 30 minutes of activity every day in November at sunrise.

“I have no memory of my emergency ride in the Westpac rescue helicopter from Moree to John Hunter Hospital,” Emma said.  

“I am incredibly grateful for the service I received and I would not have made the recovery without the rescue helicopter.

“You never hope that anyone needs them, but it means so much to have them there in the instance you do.

“I always look up to the sky when a chopper flies over and acknowledge if it’s a Westpac rescue helicopter,” she said.

“The Rise for Rescue fundraiser is an easy way for me to give a little bit back and it runs for the month of November.

“It’s a challenge that calls on the community to raise funds and awareness while participating in a minimum of 30 minutes of activity each day at sunrise.

“I run each morning and ride my horse in the afternoon,” Emma said.

Emma said the helicopter that helped save her life three years ago costs $1000 per hour in fuel; $1000 per hour to run the engine; $1500 for the airframe; and $500 for avionics.

“That’s a total of $4000 per hour,” she said.

Emma underwent emergency surgery to remove part of her skull in a bid to assist with swelling and reduce brain damage.

In all, she was in hospital and rehab for more than four months.

Emma suffered post-traumatic amnesia and had three lots of surgery to her skull.

“Since my accident I suffer from short-term memory loss, bad headaches and my balance is not great,” she said. 

“I sincerely thank all those who have supported me since the accident and I know I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t have such fantastic, supportive people around me.”

Sadly, Norton, the horse Emma fell from on that fateful morning three years ago, passed away earlier this year.

“I always think about him,” Emma said.

“I got straight back into horse riding as soon as I was allowed to and I love every minute of it.”

Words: Bill Poulos

Image: Supplied

People can support Emma’s fund-raising campaign by donating directly to her Rise for Rescue page at https://events.rescuehelicopter.com.au/s/78/76/s