The 12-year-old had been enjoying an afternoon of tubing with her father and sister when she was knocked into the Nepean River in Western Sydney by a strong gust of wind.
Harriet was at the back of the family boat with twin sister Audrey and her dad Stuart Davis as they cruised upstream, when the unthinkable occurred.
She had been keeping hold of the sea biscuit that was between the boat and the engine when the wind suddenly flipped it. The biscuit acted as anchor and pulled her down with it, just as the nylon rope towing the tube became wrapped around her wrist. The force of the tension severed her hand.
“It’s kind of like you get dunked at a beach. It just pulled me straight under,” Harriet told A Current Affair on Channel 9 last night.
“I started seeing blood trails — like, what’s happening?” she told the program. Shocked, she started swimming back to the boat and shouted for her father. “I screamed out, ‘Dad, help … it’s urgent.”
Mr Davis turned back to help his daughter out of the water. It was then he saw something he will never be able to get out of his mind.
“I’ve pulled her out by her right hand, and as I’ve done that, I’ve noticed the injury — her left hand was missing,” he said.
A police officer with 25 years experience, he told ACA he had seen many confronting things. Nothing could have prepared him for that moment.
“It was the worst moment in my life, to be honest.”
It was also at the moment Harriet wondered if she was going to survive.
“I said, “Dad, am I going to die?’ He said, ‘No sweetie, but your life is going to change forever,’” Harriet said.
To make matters even more desperate, the boat engine wouldn’t restart. But then two jet skiers came along. One of them decided he would take her back up the river, rather than wait for paramedics who had insisted they stay where they were.
Harriet sat behind Mr Harvey while Mr Davis waited with Audrey on the boat. It was only after they were back on land he was able to make a devastating call to his wife Belinda.
“He said, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, we’ve had an accident and Harriet’s lost her arm,’” Belinda recalled.
“I didn’t obviously comprehend.”
Harriet has not forgotten her father’s words about her life-changing injury, and thinks of them every day. but she is determined not to let it dominate her life, and was filmed back on he river and throwing a netball around just six weeks after she lost her hand.
The only time she cried was when doctors confirmed her hand was lost forever. That only came after a frantic few hours where police, divers, and SES volunteers scoured the murky water looking for the limb.
“I just wanted to go back to normal, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “I wanted to stay strong and, when people were crying, it brought me down.”
Her family and visitors were banned from crying in front of her for this reason.
Now she was looking ahead to her life with confidence and determination not to dwell on what happened — and how things could have been.
“My message is, ‘Don’t take life for granted’. Live it how you want to live it and just be who you are.”
In an earlier News Corp interview she told of her desire to get back to normal life.
“I want to be as normal as possible. I don’t want people to treat me different. In hospital, I was very, very frustrated (with all the fuss). But now I’ve gained a lot of patience.”
Mr Davis said his family had been moved by the amount of support from his community, local business, police and Police Legacy.
Police Legacy has set up a fundraising website to help support the Davis family with medical costs. So far more than $12,000 has been raised through the website.
To donate visit helpharrietheal.gofundraise.com.au
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