Road to recovery

Getting back to normality, that’s the plan for Rick and Krystaal Hinds.

The couple want the routine of everyday life back, something that has been missing over the last six weeks.

On January 7 Rick, a volunteer firefighter with Gunning, was called with two other members to a grass fire on Gundaroo Road.

The three began fighting the blaze on their own and were gradually bringing it under control when the wind changed and things took a turn for the worse.

Rick recalls most of what happened that afternoon and said he was simply the unlucky one. He got caught between the fire and the truck as the fire rushed over him.

Luckily, Gunning crew members Brett Lees and Peter Robinson were able to get Rick out of trouble and administered first aid on what were severe burns.

“We just used bandages and cold water on the burns, that’s all we could do,” Rick explained this week.

He was then transferred to a highway patrol car and, using officer Richard Sawyer’s bottle of water, gradually administered careful drops until they arrived in Goulburn.

There, a chopper was waiting and he was airlifted to Concord Hospital in Sydney where he was treated in the intensive care unit.

“I was burnt on the face, and on the eyes, but my hand was the worst, it was causing the most pain, along with the smoke in my lungs.”

The self-employed electrician said his oxygen levels were the big concern for doctors.

“I was on a machine, and each time I was taken off it my oxygen levels would go down again so that was the big thing.”

After doctors became confident that Rick would remain stable, he was transferred to the burns unit where he remained for the next four nights.

“The guys at the burns ward were absolutely amazing. They do the best work and they don’t see anything as too hard. Everyone there treated us really well.”

Rick’s bandages were changed several times in that first week, and from there were changed twice a week for the next four weeks.

That meant long trips to Sydney, long and painful days and nights, and a big financial burden.

But Rick said that was far from the worst of it.

“The pain heals and we will sort the finances, it’s the emotional toll it takes that has been the hardest.”

Rick and Krystaal have been married for five years and have three children, Darcy, four, Tom, two, and Elsie, three months.

“Of course I’ve missed my kids. You have to get other people to take care of them and you don’t see them as much. It’s really hard.”

He also said it’s been hard on his parents and three siblings, especially his mum.

“I’m her youngest son and she’s taken it hard. That breaks my heart too.”

But Rick said things could have been so much worse, he said all you had to do was talk to some farmers.

“This has been nothing compared to what they lost during the fire. Losing your place like that, it would be absolutely devastating.”

Rick and Krystaal said they have been totally overwhelmed by the support from the community and businesses around Yass

“The support has been great, absolutely overwhelming. The financial help is appreciated but just the fact that the community is behind us is great.”

A $500 cheque was donated to Rick’s brigade, raised by the businesses of Yass.

Krystaal said they wanted to thank the businesses but, as the cheque has no other details, they were unsure who instigated the fundraiser.

Rick is now back at work, which is helping to strengthen his hand.

“It doesn’t hurt anymore it’s just getting that strength back.”

He said doctors were very confident every bit of strength would return and that there would only be limited scarring.

And, when asked about his future as a firefighter, Rick doesn’t hesitate.

“Of course I want to get out there and keep going. Especially after what the community has done for us.”

For now though, that daily nine-to-five grind some dread, is exactly what Rick is after.

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