Fellow PTSD sufferer sheds light on Mt Warning hiker's hell

UPDATE 10.30AM: A BALLINA woman who has lived with post-traumatic stress disorder for two decades has called for more education about the condition after a PTSD sufferer who had to be airlifted from Mt Warning on Monday was criticised as being "unfit" to take on the climb because he weighed 115kg.

Alstonville man Aaron "Dogga", a former Afghanistan war hero, actually suffered a PTSD-related panic attack while on the mountain, rather than a lack of fitness as originally assumed.

Cathy Gordon, who developed the life-altering condition after surviving the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, explained why he would have not been able to explain to others about his condition.

"When one is in a panic or has been overcome by a panic attack, one of the symptoms is not being able to communicate orally… you can't actually speak to people and tell them you have PTSD and are having a panic attack… you have no association to anything." Ms Gordon said.

"If he had a flashback in his mind… he could be anywhere in his mind, unable to communicate and explain to people what is actually happening to him.

Aaron "Dogga", from Alstonville, was rescued from Mt Warning on Monday. Source: Facebook Photo Contributed Contributed

"I have great compassion for this man, and it can hit anywhere," Ms Gordon said.

"Sometimes there is absolutely no warning.

"He could have been hiking and it could have just been the colour of a leaf, (or) if he looked down and saw rocks that were similar to Afghanistan, he could have been set off and it's not something that you have control over."

Ms Gordon said people needed to educate themselves about the condition and those not fit to make a diagnosis on why someone was incapacitated should refrain from commenting.

"To cop people's judgement like that, that would make him feel less of a human being," she said.

"A formal apology would be really nice… that does not take away from the work that these people do.

"Sometimes people don't think before they speak, if they are not educated to the sorts of trauma out there.

She said people who experienced PTSD were usually completely physically able and should be able to be independent as much as possible.

"He probably just wanted some time out to do something physical to release endorphins."


WEDNESDAY 8AM: AARON "Dogga" spoke about his experience of getting stuck on Mt Warning on the Facebook group he created, ;IGY.

"So I just got stuck up Mt Warning!" he wrote just after the incident.

"My panic attacks took over and I couldn't move without needing to spew or faint!.

 "Thanks to the rescue helicopter they came and got me out, they all were amazing!

"About 30 min to the top I looked out at the amazing view and that when it hit me, my knees buckled, heart racing, couldn't focus and felt severe claustrophobia.

"I slowly pushed to the top thinking that if i at least get there I may be able to breathe, but it got increasingly worse to the point I could hardly stand up.

"I tried three times to get back down but my knees just buckled.

"I hate this disease!!!"

In the post Aaron thanked the Life Saver Rescue Helicopter workers.

The next day Tweed District Rescue Squad, who also aided with the rescue, spoke to media.

Tweed District Rescue Squad duty officer Mal Pearse claimed Aaron was exhausted and dehydrated.

"He was 115kg and probably not the fittest man to be up there," Mr Pearse said.

Aaron has since told national media he was "disgusted" be the reaction from these rescue workers. 


WEDNESDAY 7.30AM: AN Alstonville hiker, who was ridiculed by rescue workers after being airlifted from Mt Warning on Monday, has told national media he was disgusted with the reaction to his rescue.

After initially being slammed as "overweight" and "unfit", it has been revealed that the hiker was actually a two-tour Afghanistan war hero who was suffering from a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder attack at the time.

The hiker, known as Aaron "Dogga", is a 38-year-old, 115kg army veteran, told news.com.au that he was crippled by a wave of "anxiety" when he reached the mountain's peak.

It is reported that the Alstonville man gave his last name to the Gold Coast Bulletin but asked that it not be revealed, and the Bulletin confirmed his background.

Aaron was in a horrific car crash while in service in 2006.

He also had to carry one of his best mates in a casket after the soldier was killed by an Afghan sniper in 2011.

Aaron told the Gold Coast Bulletin he never truly recovered from his experience and was "disgusted" to hear rescue workers "belittling" his condition, saying he was not fit enough to make the climb.

"Once I hit the top that's when my PTSD really took over and it took all my strength not to take the easy way out and leave it all ­behind me," he said.

"I sat up there for what felt like about two hours, trying to relax and compose myself. I tried three times to start going back down but my brain wouldn't let me move. There was a great group of three lads that tried to help me but they insisted I call 000.

"The lady on the phone said possible dehydration but I know the signs and symptoms and peed clear, didn't have a headache and I still had water with me."

Aaron said he was upset that rescuers later said he only got into trouble because "he went up with no food and just a water bottle and tiredness kicked in ­because he was dehydrated".

"I had plenty of water, a salad wrap, an apple and a muesli bar," Dogga said.

"I am upset ... because PTSD is a real condition.

"I saw the signs telling you not to climb after 1pm in winter but it was 1pm exactly and (it was only autumn)."

Despite his condition, he battled a hard fight against his mental health, going on to serve in Afghanistan in 2009 for six months and for nine-months in 2011.

"Both those tours made my PTSD much worse and I was medically discharged in 2014," he said.

"Since then it has been a constant struggle. I started a Facebook group called IGY to bring awareness and support for those with PTSD and currently have 4500 members."


TUESDAY 1.50PM: AN UNFIT hiker has caused emergency services to warn people to re-evaluate their abilities when tackling climbs like Mount Warning.

"Services were called to the mountain about 5.15pm to reports of a possible heart attack on the summit of the mountain," said Tweed District Rescue Squad duty officer Mal Pearse.

As the summit was covered in cloud, rescue crews began to climb the mountain as the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter made its way to the scene.

A paramedic was lowered to the fourth winch point, beneath the summit, and climbed up to the man.

Mr Pearse said the climber had not suffered a heart attack, but was exhausted and dehydrated.

"He was 115kg and probably not the fittest man to be up there," Mr Pearse said.

Mr Pearse urged prospective climbers to assess their fitness level, take enough supplies and leave enough time for a safe descent before dusk.

"With the shortening day length you need to be coming down off that mountain and ideally in the carpark by 3pm," Mr Pearse said.

"It just gives you that margin of error.

"It's a very strenuous climb.

"They need to be in a reasonable state of fitness."

He urged climbers to take plenty of water and wear appropriate, covered footwear.

He also reiterated that as summer ends, the summit could become quite cool.

He said they would have been on the mountain until after midnight if the helicopter wasn't able to winch the man out.

"Thank goodness for the chopper," he said.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Northern Region spokesman Roger Fry said the man was flown to Lismore Base Hospital and has since been released.

He said the combination of his medical condition and severe dehydration meant getting him treatment as soon as possible was crucial.

The rescue came after a woman in her 20s was carried from halfway up the mountain on Saturday afternoon. 


TUESDAY 9.00AM: A HIKER is recovering in hospital following yesterday's rescue. 

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter have reported that the patient was winched on board yesterday afternoon and transported to Lismore Base Hospital in a stable condition.


MONDAY 5.45PM: A MALE of unknown age has to be rescued from Mount Warning this afternoon when he could go no further.

Both the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and Murwillumbah ambulance have based themselves at Uki oval while the rescue is taking place from the popular tourist attraction.

"A male has presented with symptoms of dehydration, fainting and vomiting and been unable to continue his way back down the mountain," a spokesperson for the helicopter said.

The helicopter recieved the call at 5.10pm this afternoon.

Paramedics are on their way to the patient who is located at the summit.

The patient is believed to have been walking on his own.

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