Last Thursday morning, Heather Macdonald was dead.
But thanks to the quick thinking and rapid actions of a group on the Tongariro River bank, now, she's alive. Alive, happy, and so very grateful.
As is her partner Jen Shieff, who spent an agonising 30 hours waiting to see whether Heather would survive and come back to consciousness with her faculties intact. The miracle she had been hoping for happened last Friday when Heather, by then breathing on her own again, opened her eyes.
The drama occurred while Heather, a keen angler, was fishing at the Hydro Pool on the Tongariro River. Without warning she collapsed, lost consciousness and fell into the water, where she floated face down in the current.
Fellow Tūrangi local Bob South was on the riverside talking to fishing guide Ken Drummond and Ken's friends Ross and Sue Faulkner when he spotted Heather in the river.
He alerted Ken, who was already in the water fishing. Ken bravely plunged into the freezing, fast-flowing river to get her, while Bob dialled 111.
Ken waded some 25m in water a metre deep to retrieve Heather. With Ross' help, he managed to drag Heather to the bank, no easy task as her wading belt and stick had both come adrift and her Goretex waders had filled with water.
"The weight was immense but we didn't worry about that ... the adrenaline keeps you going," Ken said.
The two men pulled Heather to the riverbank and began CPR under the guidance of Sue Faulker, a nurse, while Bob manned the phone to 111. Ken says his first aid kicked in and in his head he could hear the words of his first aid trainer - "don't stop!". His persistence paid off.
The odds looked stacked against Heather, but 10 minutes of CPR kept blood flowing to her brain and finally restored a pulse. In all, she had been an estimated 18 minutes without breathing.
To the relief of the rescuers, Tūrangi Fire Brigade arrived to take over, followed by St John paramedics, police and a doctor and staff from Pihanga Health.
Heather says she is intensely grateful that "two such capable, generous local people as Ken and Bob happened to be close by".
"Having fully recovered mentally and being almost recovered physically, I'm now in Waikato Hospital while the cardiac team investigates why I collapsed and works to find a solution."
Heather says there are not enough words to express her gratitude to all the Tūrangi Tongariro medical and emergency services who arrived so promptly to help.
"My thanks go to all of them, to Waikato Hospital's ICU team and the Waikato helicopter that took over at Taupō Hospital from the Tūrangi helicopter team with me on a ventilator. I had no awareness of any of their efforts until I regained consciousness."
Jen says it was the collective action of many people, including such small but significant actions as angler Ann Velvin giving her beanie to cover Heather's head to help warm her up while being tended to on the riverbank and Didymo Dave Cade, who spent hours searching for Heather's lost rod and reel who also deserved thanks.
Heather says while she is not at all keen on personal publicity, she did want to take the opportunity to "acknowledge those people, who through going about their everyday lives - walking their dog, fishing, or doing voluntary or paid work, take actions that can have truly phenomenal outcomes.".
"There are no words sufficient for the gratitude I feel for those involved in my rescue and resuscitation."