70-year-old rock climber meets paramedic rescuer – & hopes to climb again

A 70-year-old rock climber who recently had spinal surgery at St George Hospital has been reunited with the paramedic who rescued him from the base of a cliff near Nowra – and hopes to walk and perhaps even climb cliffs, again.

Despite over 30 years’ experience, Gilles Bonin lost his grip during a recent climb, falling about eight metres down a cliff fracturing his T-12 vertebra.

“The pain was excruciating, it was a pain I had never experienced before,” said Mr Bonin, an organic garlic farmer.

His climbing companion gained mobile reception on a nearby hill and called for help – and fortunately for Gilles, a rescue helicopter was close by.

On board were Dr Matthew Miller and NSW Ambulance critical care paramedic, Sam Immens, who treated Gilles at the base of the cliff before winching him to safety and transporting him to St George Hospital where he underwent surgery to fuse five of his vertebra together.

The rescue made news headlines and Gilles was once again in the news spotlight when Sam returned to St George Hospital recently to reunite with him and check on his progress.

Lauren Stanwell, Physiotherapist, St George Hospital, worked with Gilles during his rehabilitation and said he was doing really well to be walking assisted after only four weeks.

“Gilles is able to do a lot of strengthening exercises and walk assisted on a treadmill. He is super hard working and very motivated. It’s his motivation and dedication that is helping him achieve so much so quickly,” Ms Stanwell said.

When asked if he would ever go rock climbing again Gilles said he was realistic – that it would depend on how well he recovers.

“I hope to keep climbing. We should all keep active in our old age and because I know rock climbing I just keep doing it. I can’t play soccer or play rugby so I’ll keep climbing if I can,” Mr Bonin said.

But for now he is focussed on getting his strength back. “I’m most looking forward to walking again,” Mr Bonin said.

Gilles has been transferred to a hospital in Canberra closer to his home to complete his rehabilitation.

Giles diligently doing his rehabilitation exercises under the watchful eye of Lauren Stanwell