Departing Canterbury Crew Member: Chris Harrison
Briefly describe your professional history (past education/jobs)
- Diploma in Ambulance Practice
- Bachelor of Health Science; Paramedicine
- Post Graduate Certificate Advanced Resuscitation
- Post Graduate Certificate Aeromedical Retrieval
- Intensive Care Paramedic – Hawke’s Bay then Auckland
- Specialist Emergency Response Team
- Shift Supervisor
- 3x winter secondments to Mt Ruapehu
- Qualified Surf Lifeguard
What motivated you to become a Rescue Crew member?
I enjoy being a member of a high-performing, specialist team. Responding to incidents where both technical skill and clinical expertise are required is extremely rewarding and the incidents responded to in the rescue helicopter allow for this.
What is your favorite part of the job and what was the most challenging part of the job?
My favourite part of the job is missions involving winching. The most challenging part of the job was tending to a patient in a confined space with reduced ability to communicate and work, often at night.
Briefly describe one or two missions that stick in your mind the most/had the greatest effect on you:
The mission that sticks out most was the Waimairi Ship Rescue. We were responded by police to reports of a fishing trawler in trouble. We located the vessel with its bow beached into the back of the back sand bar at Waimairi Beach about 150m off shore. It was high tide with a swell of approx 1.5m. The ship was listing heavily to its Port side and the 3 crew were unable to get off the vessel and in to shore. Due to it being high tide we were unable to land on the beach so Matt Boulcott and Rob Henderson winched me down to the beach where I liaised with police and St John ambulance staff. I was able to wade and dolphin dive most of the way out and swam the last 20m or so. I then instructed the crew to jump into the water one at a time, securing each into a rescue tube and then swam them each in to shore one by one. The first crew person didn’t jump at the right time and got swept around the back of the ship so I had to swim after her and then secure her with the tube before trying to pull her back to shore through the debris and fishing line that was on the low side of the vessel. The other two were straight forward and I was able to keep them on the high side of the vessel where there was less debris. The guys kept the helicopters spot lights over the vessel and water whilst I was out there which made it a whole lot easier. Once I had them all back on the beach I ran back down to where Matt and Rob could winch me back up to the helicopter.
What advice would you give to aspiring rescue crew members?
Make sure you’re physically fit and tough, in the water, on land and in the alpine environment. It makes the job far easier so you can focus on the patient and their needs and not worry about whether you’re going to become a patient yourself!
What is something that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?
Good question, probably a bit more life experience first. Maybe some time in the army or another service first. I started volunteering when I was 17 and whilst it hasn’t had a negative effect on me it certainly could’ve been beneficial.
Whats something people may not know about the air rescue operation?
Probably that whilst the big jobs look glamorous and like a lot of fun, they’re often physically and mentally demanding. And usually in quite uncomfortable environments, such as the sea in the middle of the night with the Waimairi job.
What training did you do as a crew member?
Everything from winch training over land, water, in the mountains. To water rescues and mountain survival and avalanche awareness. Helicopter underwater escape training (HUET) was fun also.
Any other comments?
It was a great year or so that I was there, not only due to the work, but mainly due to the majority of my team mates I had the privilege of working with. I look forward to being a part of the team sometime in the not too distant future.