For Deirdre Haywood and her husband, Brian, it was to have been a holiday of a lifetime.
It began with a caravan odyssey through Central Australia last year, followed by a spectacular cruise up the Kimberly Coast.
Then a leisurely overland expedition through the Pilbara would have seen them return to their Sydney North Shore home three months later.
In Broome, the couple boarded the Coral Princess, a 25-cabin ship that offers access to one of Australia’s most beautiful coastlines.
But eight days into the cruise Deirdre had an accident.
The couple had joined other passengers on the Explorer, a small aluminum expedition vessel, for a trip from St Georges Basin up the Prince Regent River to Camp Creek.
Deirdre recalled: “Half the party set-off for quite a difficult climb but I decided to have a relaxed time with a book and to chat with fellow passengers.
“As I moved across the rocks my leg gave way underneath me. Immediately a doctor with the party realised that I had broken both my tibia and fibula bones. He put an air splint on my leg from the first aid box.”
What followed, however, was an extraordinary medical evacuation.
Deidre was carried on a stretcher across rocks and rough ground to an inflatable Zodiac craft. She was then moved onto the Explorer vessel for the journey back to the cruise ship.
Meanwhile, the ship’s captain had called the RFDS to organise an emergency evacuation.
Once alerted, RFDS chartered a local seaplane to land near the cruise ship and take Deirdre to Broome.
Hospital doctors, however, decided she should continue to Perth for surgery, requiring another RFDS transfer the next day.
“It was certainly a long trip but the level of care was superb all the way,” Deirdre said.