Pair lost without a pulse

By Kristin Edge


A small electronic transmitter worn around the neck of Alzheimer sufferer Gary McFadyen means rescuers will be able to quickly track him down if he becomes lost.

The 60 year-old is the first person in Northland to use the Wandatrack tracking system which has been developed to trace the movements of people living with dementia, autism, or a brain injury and who tend to wander and are unable to find their way home.

The pendant emits a pulse which is detected using a radio tracking unit and a directional finding aerial. As the tracking unit gets closer to the pendant, the stronger the pulse will be heard.

For Mr McFadyen's partner of 25 years Michele O'Donnell, the small device has already made a huge difference in both their lives.

She knows too well the heart-wrenching feeling of returning home to discover he has wandered off.

"When you come home and he's not here you panic. It's awful not knowing where he is."

The Wandatrack system has meant Ms O'Donnell can return to her job at Whangarei Hospital full-time, with the knowledge if Mr McFadyen wanders off and becomes lost he will be found quickly.

"Driving around looking for him is awful. Now at least I know he could be found quickly."

Thanks to the Northland Land Search and Rescue group and with support from Northland Police, three more of the devices are available.

Northland SAR volunteer Jenny Calder said public funding was being sought to buy more transmitters and have then distributed across Northland.

"Not only does it help the individual it gives their family and loved one peace of mind and reassurance that it's less likely for them to be harmed."

Whangarei Police SAR team member Constable Sue Grocott said each transmitter had a unique code which was logged on the police computer system. Police could also hold additional information about users of the system that would also enable search teams to locate missing people quicker.

In Auckland there are about 200 people using the devices and it has led to a reduction in police resources needed to carry out searches.

The programme is not funded by the government and the group is relying on donations to provide the devices.

For more information contact northlandwandatrak@hotmail.co.nz

- Northern Advocate

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