From trapped to triumph: 93-year-Old’s remarkable rescue in the midst of catastrophic floods

In the early hours of 28 February 2022, the residents of Lismore awoke to a nightmare. It was a cold and dark morning, disaster had crept into their lives and they found themselves trapped, surrounded by rising floodwaters. Desperation filled the air as families scrambled to save what they could, hoping for safety.

Among those caught in the chaos was Mary McDonough, a 93-year-old woman who clung to her mattress with unwavering determination. As the floodwaters rose, her head touched the ceiling of her home, leaving her trapped and helpless. It was a terrifying situation, made even worse by the fact that all communication had been cut off, leaving loved ones in the dark about the fate of their family members.

Bernie McDonough, Mary's son, vividly recalls the panic and uncertainty of that day, ‘I wasn't with my mum, and we weren't sure what was happening in Lismore’. The flood had severed all connections, leaving them isolated and fearful. It was a battle they couldn't fight alone.

Ranked as one of the most costly natural disasters in the world for 2022, the flood had dealt a devastating blow to the Lismore community. Bernie describes it as a flood like no other, leaving destruction in its wake. ‘Houses were inundated, valuables were lost, and lives were forever changed.’

Mary's daughter Sue remembers the harrowing sight of floodwater pouring through houses, with people desperately clutching onto their most cherished possessions. In times of such chaos, panic sets in, and the simplest tasks become overwhelming. ‘How do you turn off the electricity? How do you reach out for help? It all added to our already mounting fear’, says Sue. 

Eventually, help arrived. NSW police constables came to the rescue, pulling Mary McDonough from the clutches of the floodwaters. Despite being hospitalised for hypothermia, the 93-year-old displayed a remarkable resilience. She fell off her mattress once but refused to give up. ‘There's no way am I going to go today’, she recalls with a smile, a testament to her indomitable spirit.

However, the challenges didn't end there. Mary faced another hurdle, this time financial. The repairs to her home, which she had lived in for many years, were estimated to take an entire year. Thankfully, Defence Service Homes (DSH) Insurance stepped in to help navigate through this financially stressful time.

‘People think 'oh, you're lucky you've got insurance. I've heard it referred to as winning the lotto or having a windfall’, says Bernie.  

The support from DSH Insurance was invaluable to the McDonough family, providing them with the assurance that they wouldn't have to face this daunting process alone.

The team at DSH Insurance stood by their side every step of the way, discussing timelines, organising assistance, and providing updates on their claims. They understood the urgency of the situation, especially considering Mary's high care needs. 

During times of uncertainty and burden, DSH Insurance remains dedicated to assisting their policyholders when it matters the most. 

‘These floods are going to be embedded in our community psyche for years to come but we’re grateful to everyone, from emergency services and community response groups, to DSH Insurance, who matched their service delivery promise with action’ says Bernie.