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.
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 Alison and her beloved younger half-sister, both of whom were there on the day along with Alison’s partner Darryl. 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.”