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Mustering accident 110km from medical help in St George

COUNTRY TRIO: The breaker, the jillaroo and the rouseabout started the Countrygirls Out and About Facebook page to share real stories from the bush.
COUNTRY TRIO: The breaker, the jillaroo and the rouseabout started the Countrygirls Out and About Facebook page to share real stories from the bush. Contributed

CHARLOTTE Gerhardt was mustering cattle on a remote property when her horse fell, crushing her leg.

But her bad luck ended that day when she hit the ground. The 24-year-old had been shifting breeders on her family's 7700ha property, Fairymount, between St George and Goondiwindi, when the accident happened.

It was an unlucky fall, but the upside was her sister, Emily, was by her side in seconds. She then instinctively twisted Charlotte's foot 180 degrees back to a normal position.

Specialists would later credit the move to helping save Charlotte's leg.

Doctors told me if I had had to wait until the next day, I could have lost my leg.

Her parents, David and Maree, then made the decision to meet the ambulance, loading her on a mattress in the back of their Landcruiser wagon for the 110km trip to St George. It was a painful trip - exacerbated by 30km of gravel road - but they met the ambulance and arrived at St George Hospital to find the Royal Flying Doctor's Service at the airport waiting on another patient.

"I was lucky, because I was airlifted to Brisbane straight away," Charlotte said.

"Doctors have told me if I had had to wait until the next day I could have lost my leg."

As it was, the remedial therapist, who had divided her time between work on her family property and her practice in St George, ended up enduring three operations on her leg, a skin graft and more than a month in hospital.

Now, three months later, Charlotte describes the experience as "having positives".

"It gave me more empathy for people who are suffering. Before the accident I had been caught up in helping my family get through the drought," she said.

"The accident actually made me realise how many people cared."

It wasn't the first time this young rural woman has been caught off guard by people's interest in her well-being or her rural life.

Before her accident she had created a social media presence, which has a growing following, in an attempt to explain the anguish of drought to urban readers.

"A city-based friend had called in November and asked why my family was struggling so much with the drought," Charlotte said.

"When I finished explaining the stock losses and water problems, he asked me to write it down, so he could share it with his friends."

It was the start of a blog, which resonated across social media.

She went from 100 followers to 1500 on the strength of a heart wrenching story about losing a working dog during a heatwave.

Within weeks she'd enlisted the help of two close friends, Wick Tyler and Iana Winning, both involved in the rural sector: one on a sheep property in the Traprock region near Texas, and the other on a station at Bollon.

Today the three close girlfriends - under the tags of the rouseabout, the jillaroo and the breaker - are the rural success stories behind the Countrygirls Out and About Facebook page.

With more than 2700 likes the page, which now includes a new blog describing Charlotte's accident, is focused on sharing real stories from the paddock to change city perceptions.

From next week the trio will write regular columns for the Rural Weekly.

Topics:  drought social media