A Walcha postie saved the life of an elderly man in Yarrowitch recently proving the postal service provides a lifeline to those in the bush in more ways than one.
Linda McElroy has been a contractor to Australia Post for ten years covering the Yarrowitch area on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
On her run is a 71-year-old man who lives alone on a property 80kms east of Walcha. Occasionally, when he runs out of milk, the Walcha supermarket asks Ms McElroy to deliver his milk to him along with the mail.
“Last month I took some milk out to him on a Monday, and it was still there on Wednesday - but you don't worry too much about it because sometimes he comes down to the mailbox, and sometimes he doesn’t,” Ms McElroy said.
“I thought he would come down to collect the mail and just throw out the milk, but when I returned on Friday, and everything was still there, I knew something was wrong.”
Ms McElroy completed her mail run to the end of that road and then returned to the property where she found the man lying on his bathroom floor.
“He was not in a good state,” Ms McElroy said.
“He had been lying there since Sunday. He said he had fallen over getting up from the loo.”
Ms McElroy called an ambulance and waited with the man for more than two hours until the paramedics arrived.
“They told me to cover him and not to give him anything to eat or drink,” Ms McElroy said.
“They took him to Tamworth for treatment and then to Armidale for rehabilitation.”
Surprisingly the widower, who suffers osteoporosis and walks with the aid of two walking sticks, only suffered minor injuries as well as dehydration but an Australian Post spokesperson said he was lucky to be found when he was.
“Our posties are out in the community every day, which means they often become the eyes and ears of a neighbourhood,” he said.
While Ms McElroy said she finished delivering the mail ( albeit three hours late) she was fairly shaken by the time she finally got back to the Walcha Post Office.
“Sam (Lockyer) and Ann (Struck) were great when I returned, and Peter (Struck) called me that night at home. I was also sent a bunch of flowers by Australia Post.”
Ms McElroy said it was important for people to check on elderly relatives who live on their own, even if it is just a daily telephone call, as this was not the first time she had found someone in distress.
“This is the second one I have found out at Yarrowitch,” she said.
“A couple of years ago I had concerns about an 83-year-old gentleman who hadn’t collected his mail for a couple of days. On that day I made a phone call to some of his family in town, and they went out to his property and found he had been unable to get out of his chair for four days. They took him to the hospital, but unfortunately he died two weeks later.”