Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere; they can be minor or life-changing and everything in between. These are Diane’s words, following her own experience with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service recently.
“On March 21st 2020, I was walking the amazing Kaikoura Coastal Track with eight friends. This is a quite strenuous two-day walk; we were nearing the end of day two on a very cool and windy day, and I thought I could smell the sea. We were walking downhill and I was at the front. I do not recall feeling dizzy or slipping, but I do remember the sickening sound and feeling of my head hitting a tree as I fell, then my friends were there and trying to get me up the bank that I had fallen down. I was aware of severe pain in my neck, but with help I managed to very carefully wriggle my way back up to the track. Two of my friends had been carrying survival blankets, for which I am very grateful, as I was able to lie on one and have the other around me. I had scalped myself on the tree and was bleeding profusely; the girls were applying pressure to try and stop the bleeding. We had no cell phone reception, so three of the girls walked out to get help. It seemed quite a long time before help arrived, and I think the St John Ambulance from Kaikoura arrived just before the rescue helicopter. The rescue helicopter team were amazing and soon had me being winched up through the trees and away to hospital. I had fractured my top two vertebrae and had an extensive scalp laceration. I spent 4 ½ days in Ward 19 and 13 weeks 4 days in a neck brace; I am well on the way to a full recovery. My family and I will be forever grateful to my friends, St John and the exceptional rescue helicopter staff. Did you know that you can donate your Hotpoints to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter appeal…if we all give a little it will help.”
One minute Suzanne was clearing garden waste at her home in Charteris Bay and next, after a fall from a 2-metre high trailer splitting her head wide open and breaking 4 bones in her neck, she was face down on the concrete with blood flowing down the driveway.
It happened in an instant but with an immediate call to 11 by husband Shane the Westpac Rescue Helicopter saved Suzanne's life.
Read Suzanne's full story HERE
Just before the COVID-19 lockdown, Andrew Hurst and his family came to the GCH Aviation Emergency Air Centre in Christchurch to meet the crew that were on duty the day of his accident at his farm near Fairlie. It had been a normal day for Andrew. Having returned from a bull auction he was driving a 2-wheeler round his farm, a mixture of sheep and beef; everything seemed to be in order and it was time to head home. In a split second he was under a Hilux that he had not seen coming from the other direction. Initially in a state of shock Andrew did not realise the extent of his injuries and tried to wriggle out on his front. Fortunately, a worker on the farm called 111 and help was dispatched.
Tatsu, the Intensive Care Paramedic on duty that day recalled:
“At the scene, I was literally holding Andrews leg together, it was completely shattered.”
“We put him onto a temporary cardboard splint, but it soon became drenched in blood, we looked at applying a tourniquet but knew that yes that would stem the blood flow, but it would also significantly increase the chance of Andrew losing his leg.” When Tatsu met Andrew at the base he had a look of utter astonishment on his face; Andrew shouted out to him, “I still have it!” They were talking about Andrew’s leg and soon Tatsu was admiring the handiwork of the surgeon.
Read Andrew's full story HERE
Scotty Bamford, you may recall, had a terrible motor vehicle accident several years ago on Christmas Eve — he was stuck in the vehicle with the fuel leaking out in a very bad state.
Scotty broke his pelvis completely and had a ruptured lung, broken ribs and multiple other things.
His recovery was long but a steely determination pulled him through and a few years later he completed the Mongol Rally — a trip though countries including:- Slovakia, Serbia, Romania, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia — with the car needing to be valued at under £1,000!!
At seven months, Tracy started bleeding and went into early labour at her home on isolated Banks Peninsula.
She started driving towards Christchurch Hospital – over rugged hills and along exposed ridges - but the hour-and-a-half journey was too far in her condition. Contractions had started and fearing the worst, she had to pull over and call 111 for help.
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter arrived and transferred Tracey to the hospital where a specialist team were waiting to assist her and her premature baby daughter, who both survived the ordeal due to the chopper’s quick response.
Akaroa is famous for being a holiday get-away from Christchurch with its rare Hector’s dolphin and its French colonial history.
But tourists coming into the small town on cruise ships, as well as local residents, fall victim to medical emergencies in the remote area.
The Akaroa Village Inn is located opposite the main wharf where ships of tourists dock frequently and the Inn’s owner, Darren Angus, says he sees the chopper once every couple of weeks, depending on how busy the area is.
Matt is a quintessential Kiwi; he loves the outdoors and wants to challenge himself in everything he does. Unfortunately, when out paragliding at the Christchurch Gondola, a major accident occurred.
One minute Matt was soaring free as a bird; the next he was crumpled, trapped and seriously
injured. Accidents do happen every day and last year the Westpac Rescue Helicopter responded to nearly 300 in our community.
Matt had been doing one of his favourite things, out paragliding at the Christchurch Gondola. Very
safety conscious, he liked the system there – you registered as a “flyer” and then confirmed when
you landed after every flight. Just around the corner from home – he was really embracing being
outside and the enjoying the view across Christchurch. Until he wasn’t.
When Intensive Care Paramedic, Shane, arrived at the scene – he could see Matt’s feet were
blue, with bone protruding through the skin of his feet. It was going to be tough to get to him on the
side of the hill; time was ticking by.
The pain, after that impact, was excruciating but an adrenaline rush spurred Matt to slap his pocket
and feel that his phone was there. He called 111 and was so thankful he got through – he managed to explain the full situation and stayed on the phone until help arrived. Matt said he just couldn’t describe the arrival of the helicopter – that sound of the blades; he felt a huge surge of relief. Being a medical student, he knew that his feet looked very bad and he was pretty sure there was something wrong with his spine.
Shane initially approached on foot and assessed the situation – by this stage Matt was in agony, he recalls then falling into a bit of a haze after Shane administered some strong pain relief. Shane worked quickly but cautiously, very concerned about Matt’s injuries and potential complications; crewman Wayne winched Matt up to the safety of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and they were at Christchurch hospital within 10 minutes.
Find out more HERE
Bryce, a Chemistry Professor, was leading a group of ten experienced trampers from the Christchurch Tramping Club at the Rakaia Spurs when he turned around to take a photo of the group by the ridge. Suddenly he felt himself slipping, “half way down I was resigned… this is where it ends,” Bryce recalls of his experience. He desperately tried to grasp at things to stop himself, he plunged 40 metres down the ridge.
His tramping companions couldn’t believe it – they looked down the sheer cliff face in horror. “We thought no one could survive such a fall. When we saw he was conscious we knew we had to act quickly.” The girls in the group surrounded Bryce, keeping him warm and holding his neck in place, while two of the climbers made their way back to find help. Luckily, Bryce’s wife Wendy had given Bryce a locator beacon for his birthday several years earlier – “I’d asked for an MP3 player,” Bryce laughed.
The locator beacon triggered the alarm for Air Rescue.
Brent, our intensive care paramedic arrived on the job to find Bryce wedged in by women. He joked about whether or not he needed assistance! Bryce was “extremely pleased to see the crew”.
Indeed he was lucky as Pilot Stu Farquhar recalls: “The weather conditions were dreadful; the situation tested us to the limit but it’s on days like that all the training and 17 years’ experience pays off. It was an extremely windy day, but the place Bryce had fallen to was in a pocket of shelter from the wind which meant that we were able to winch down the crew to help him. It was extremely steep – he is very lucky to be alive today.”
Bryce was delivered safely to Christchurch Hospital, where he made a full recovery.
While Bryce told me hia story he showed me the photos on his phone to help share his experience – I recognised the crew and felt extremely proud of them. Bryce then shared with me that since the incident a few years ago he and his wife Wendy have been making a donation each year to support future air rescue missions. “We donate because we are so thankful that Air Rescue were able to be there to bring me to safety that day.”
Dylan needed our help when he was badly injured in a terrible biking accident at a friend’s birthday party.
Nigel, Dylan’s father, recalls the experience; “Dylan was screaming – there was blood everywhere, his face was smashed, his teeth scattered on the ground, he was struggling to breathe.”
Getting medical attention to Dylan in that first hour was critical – It is called the “golden hour” and is the reason that he was back playing rugby in only a matter of months despite his life-threatening injuries.
“I had the feeling Dylan was being cared for like the paramedic’s own son” – Dylan’s father.
Jazmin is visiting with her mother and her beloved younger half-sister, both of whom were there on the day along with her step father. Jazmin has no recall of the events that morning; she was unconscious, she had stopped breathing and had no pulse. Luckily for Jazmin her step-father stepped in and immediately started CPR – he was trained, and a local St John volunteer who lived nearby was called upon to assist.
Knowing CPR can help save a life – this is a part of the experience Jazmin wants to share. Jazmin was still in a serious condition when the ambulance and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter arrived – her mum Alison recalls feeling very relieved that the local ‘heli-pad’ was at the tavern opposite their home.
Juliette was the Intensive Care Paramedic on the Westpac Rescue Helicopter that day, on shift with crewman Wayne. They knew they had to get Jazmin to hospital as quickly as possible.
By road it would take over an hour and in many rural areas intensive care paramedics are not available. Thanks to the Air Rescue crew Jazmin was at Christchurch Hospital 20 minutes later. This saved her life.
“I was on my back and taking in a lot of water. I was just telling myself ‘hang on in there’ and hoping like hell that help was going to come.”
Don's experience still haunts him today. Don was out with other Whitebaters and fishermen when an unexpected wave caused him to slide down the shingle into the freezing cold water. The waters were too rough for any local boat to launch so the helicopter was called in. Don was being dragged further and further out to sea in the choppy waters but the crew managed to locate him three kilometers offshore. This was Don’s only hope. It was too rough for any local boat to be launched. Crew Chief Rick feared he was going to be pulling out a body, he had no idea if Don was dead or alive.
It took precision and judgment only gained through experience and extensive training to access Don and winch him up to safety. Don was exhausted and could not get into the chopper. Rick held onto him on the skids until they could land safely. By this stage, Don had respiratory failure and hypothermia. They landed the helicopter nearby so the ambulance crew could get him out of his wet clothes.
“I was sitting in the car waiting at the intersection when suddenly I was smashed into from behind by an 11 tonne truck and thrust into on-going traffic. After the car flipped several times it took emergency services over two hours to cut me out of the vehicle. It could have happened to anyone – I am lucky to be alive”
Helen suffered fractured vertebrae, fractured femur and fingers, massive bruising and had 20 staples put in the back of her head. It had been a long and challenging recovery but the swift action of Air Rescue means she has recovered well after her experience in a critical motor vehicle accident.
“I don’t take anything for granted – every day with my husband Mike and kids Jack and Sarah is a bonus.”