Ballarat hero saves Christchurch earthquake victim by amputating legs

Dr Lydia Johns Putra. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

Dr Lydia Johns Putra. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

A BALLARAT surgeon who used a pocket knife and a hacksaw to amputate the legs of a man trapped during the Christchurch earthquake has received a New Zealand bravery award.

Amid recurring aftershocks, Dr Lydia Johns Putra’s steady hand played a crucial role in a remarkable recovery effort. 

Helping save the man’s life has had a profound impact on Dr Johns Putra’s own.

“It’s changed my perspective of life. I don’t take things for granted any more,” she said. 

The selfless human spirit on display during that tragic February day in 2011 has become a lasting memory for Dr Johns Putra. 

“People did so much for people they didn’t even know,” she said. 

Dr Johns Putra was at a urology conference in Christchurch when the tremors began. 

“We moved outside (and) realised it was an earthquake,” she said. After a few hours of observing and offering help, Dr Johns Putra became aware of a man trapped in a stairwell inside the Pyne Gould Corporation building.

Shortly after, a decision was made to amputate his legs. 

Earthquake damage in central christchurch after a 6.3 earthquake. PICTURE: IAN MCGREGOR

Earthquake damage in central christchurch after a 6.3 earthquake. PICTURE: IAN MCGREGOR

“I thought I was going to be the one doing it (amputation),” she said. “At the forefront of my mind was that the man needed help. 

He was in danger at this stage, so that was the most prominent thing in my mind – and after that everything else just got carried through with the momentum of things. ” 

Dr Johns Putra was well-versed in amputations, but she had never performed one in a dark, confined space with apparent time pressures.

“It was a cramped space with no light, and a lot of it was working on my tummy. It wasn’t a very comfortable spot,” she said. 

Speaking about the bravery award, Dr Johns Putra was typically modest.

“It’s incredibly humbling that someone would think to do this, particularly when it wasn’t just me,” she said. 

Dr Johns Putra said she had spoken to the man she helped save by video chat and email, but didn’t want to take too much of his time.

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