Ex-surfing champ with ‘hours to live’ rescued by flight

Laine Clark |

Former surfing champion Mark Richardson has thanked the crew of a crowd funded emergency flight.
Former surfing champion Mark Richardson has thanked the crew of a crowd funded emergency flight.

At first, four-time Australian surfing champion Mark Richardson thought it was a bad case of Bali belly.

For three days he struggled in a hotel room.

But it wasn’t until he finally lobbed at a local hospital that his dream Indonesian holiday truly became a nightmare.

“I was really bad. I knew something was up once I got to the hospital,” Mr Richardson said.

“Then I found out that I needed A negative (blood) – and they didn’t have it.”

The 51-year-old was suffering significant internal bleeding after complications from an infection and ulcer.

Spending two weeks in intensive care, Mr Richardson required a blood transfusion but was told the hospital’s A negative donations had run out.

“I felt like I was at the end,” he said.

However, a GoFundMe account was set up and soon about $50,000 was raised for a medical evacuation flight from Townsville.

A LifeFlight Australia jet armed with 10 bags of blood arrived at Bali’s Denpasar Airport in late September, transporting Mr Richardson to Darwin for further treatment.

“I felt like I only had a couple of hours left,” he said.

“I remember the jet engines. I remember hearing them. It was a beautiful sound – I knew I was on my way home.”

In four hours he received a litre of blood – one unit in his hospital room, another in the ambulance on the way to the emergency jet and two more in the air.

“When I first saw Mark, he was very white,” LifeFlight nurse Natasha Grieve said.

“I’m not sure he would have made it another 12 hours.”

Six weeks later Mr Richardson is back home surfing on the Gold Coast.

Mr Richardson – who coaches World Surf League’s Isabella Nichols, Liam O’Brien and Callum Robson – was able to thank the LifeFlight jet crew on Monday.

“I want a hug. You guys are special. Far out. I’ll never forget you ever,” he said before embracing Ms Grieve and LifeFlight doctor Louis Snellgrove.

“I’m much better now. I’ve come good.”

LifeFlight Australia worked with insurance company nib to bring the surfing champion home.

“It was great to see Mark… back to full health with colour in his cheeks,” Dr Snellgrove said.