Romanian hiker Nela Macovei says the road to recovery is long, but she is very thankful for her prompt rescue and treatment Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A Romanian hiker, who was seriously injured after she fell down the Ghalilah mountains in Ras Al Khaimah recently, has stressed the importance of safety and cautioned against over-confidence during hiking, even as she thanked those who saved her life.

As hiking, a popular outdoor leisure activity, picks up with pleasant weather in the UAE, Dubai resident Nela Macovei, 36, told Gulf News on Friday, “It’s great to be hiking in this climate, but always stay vigilant. I am a regular hiker with 15 years’ experience behind me, but I can tell you that things happen, so keep assessing and never leave anything to chance.”

The site where Nela Macovei fell in the Ghalilah mountain range in Ras Al Khaimah on January 29.

The horrific fall

Recollecting her horrific fall, Macovei said she had set out with a group of friends for a hike on the picturesque Ghalila mountains on January 29 after due preparations. “We were five of us and had started our hike at around 6.30 am. It was to be a long climb and should have taken us eight-nine hours. However, when we had still not gone too far up, I lost my grip and came tumbling down, hitting hard against the rocks along the way and landing on my back. It must have been around 8am at the time.”

Dramatic evacuation

Macovei said she lost consciousness for a bit. Her friends had promptly called for emergency help. As Gulf News reported earlier, the National Search and Rescue Centre, in coordination with the Ras Al Khaimah Police, carried out a medical evacuation mission for the 36-year-old.

On receiving the SOS call, the site was checked by the auxiliary operation systems of the Operations Room at the National Search and Rescue Centre. A search-and-rescue team was immediately dispatched to the location and Macovei airlifted. She was first transferred to Shaikh Khalifa Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah and later taken to the Mediclinic Welcare Hospital in Dubai. There, she remained in intensive care for five days as she was treated for multiple fractures in her spine and right hand.

‘Unstable’ spine fractures

Dr Ahmed Allam, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, said, “She had highly unstable spine fractures involving three shattered vertebral bodies and was unable to move or even turn. The rescue team did an amazing job, transferring her into the helicopter from the mountain, without causing further damage to her unstable spine.”

Romanian hiker Nela Macovei at Dubai's Mediclinic Welcare Hospital where she was treated by Dr Ahmed Allam, left and Dr Yousef Fallaha, right

Dr Yousef Fallaha, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, said: “We conducted a three-hour surgery on the patient to correct her right wrist and back where she had sustained injuries.”

Lessons for life

Macovei said, “It is still hard for me to believe that after 15 years of hiking with no incidents, I fell eight metres down on the mountains. I am so thankful to the rescue team in Ras Al Khaimah and the doctors here. Surgery on my left hand and on my spine is what saved me. But it’s a long road to recovery.”

Most common hiking injuries
Exhaustion, muscle cramps, blisters, sunburn, cuts, scrapes, sprains, fractures, dehydration

She said the incident had taught her many lessons. “No matter how well-prepared you are, assess and reassess at every step. Sometimes, the mountains can be very steep and the rocks loose, so one must always go with an open mind and keep evaluating. If there is room for any doubt, just make necessary adjustments with the route.”

Macovei said, “Take it slow. Never rush – it could prove risky. Having proper gear, especially the shoes, is important. And keep enough water.”


  1. Be comfortable with the terrain you are getting into
  2. Research the route, keep a map, compass on you
  3. Share the route with someone outside of the group
  4. Have an emergency plan in place; have ready contact numbers
  5. Plan for the weather – protection from sun, rain etc; if foggy, start a little later
  6. Keep a first aid kit
  7. Keep a first aid kit
  8. Proper gear is a must – wear the right shoes and clothes
  9. Go with a group you trust
  10. Pay attention to the trail
  11. Keep evaluating terrain and route
  12. Make changes if necessary

But even with all this taken care of, “things happen”, she said. “So constant evaluation is a must. My experience this time also taught me that it is good to be with people you trust. It makes a lot of difference.”

With foggy conditions prevailing these days, Macovei said, “It’s prudent to wait for the fog to clear before venturing out. Start out a little later in the day. The mountains are not going away anywhere.”

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