As you can imagine, I have come across thousands of patients, but some have left a lasting impression on me. Steve 'Hoppy' Rastovich is one of those patients. I was therefore humbled recently when I found out that Steve and his wife, Frances, have both become a Supporter for Life by leaving a gift to us in their Will. You see 'Hoppy' (as he likes to be called) will never forget what we did for him and neither will his family. Here is their story.
As Steve Rastovich sat trapped in the mangled cab of his truck and losing blood, there was only one thing on his mind. His family.
He thought about how they would hurt if he died; how his wife of 40 years would cope without him and what he would miss out on: his son, daughter and grandchildren, the rest of his life.
He drifted in and out of consciousness, hearing the emergency service crews at the scene discuss how to get his damaged body out of the cab, hearing the blades hit metal as they started to cut the vehicle apart.
Then he heard a sound he will never forget: a helicopter coming closer, then landing.
He couldn’t feel much at the time, but he remembers relief, and a lot of hope.
Steve’s crash happened on 22 February 2010.
While driving at 90km/ph the front right tyre of his truck exploded as he took a corner. As he lost control, Steve had to choose between veering left into a bank, or into the path of oncoming traffic and over a drop of nearly 100m. He chose the bank and on impact, the truck crumpled like a concertina.
‘I couldn’t get out, I was jammed up,’ Steve recalled.
‘I thought of my wife, my family, what could be and what might not be, that was the biggest thing … at the time I didn’t feel much pain, it was just the things going through my head. That was the worst part.’
It wasn’t Steve’s first crash; 45 years ago he crashed his truck into a pole which was holding up a shop verandah. His left leg had to be amputated.
That didn’t stop him; the avid truckie was back behind the wheel as soon as he could manage it and went on to drive for a transport company in South Auckland.
But sitting in the cab in 2010, he thought his time was up.
‘I was trapped in there for about 90 minutes. That’s a long time to be sitting in there,’ he said.
‘A lot goes through your mind, your family – I wasn’t concerned about losing my other leg, I just wanted to get out of that bloody thing.’
When they got Steve out of the truck he had lost a lot of blood and was losing more rapidly. Then in came the crew of the Auckland & Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
‘Dave, the paramedic kept me together, he stabilised the leg and bound it straight,’ Steve said. ‘He got me stable enough to be transferred to the helicopter and then we went through to Middlemore Hospital,’ said Steve, who earned the nickname ‘Hoppy’ after his first accident.
‘The flight was really rough, it was like boom, boom, boom the whole way but I was thankful to be in there.’
Steve was given 17 units of blood to replace what he’d lost and underwent surgery to repair what was left of his right leg, which was hanging by, in his words, ‘a flap of skin.’ His hip and knee were reconstructed and he’s got steel rods the length of his limb.
Steve has had 15 operations since the crash and while he has ongoing pain issues, he has no complaints. He can walk, but most importantly, he’s alive to tell his tale.
His wife, Frances, said if there had been no rescue chopper that day, there is no doubt she would have had to bury her husband. ‘Our 19 year old son died in a car accident 23 years ago, so my life would have been absolutely unbearable if Steve had died,’ she said.
‘Without the Auckland Westpac crew I would not have a husband. They didn’t just save him, they saved our whole family.’
Frances said while in hospital Steve was hell bent on three things: walking again; going back to work; meeting the people who saved him to say thanks.
He achieved all three.
‘We went into the rescue base to meet the guys who helped Steve, they didn’t know we were coming but the girls in the office made sure the crew were all there on the day. That was the ultimate; to walk in there and see the guys when he should never have lived, that was a really great thing.’
Because of their experience with the helicopter service, Hoppy and Frances have now become members of the Trust’s Supporter for Life bequest programme, by leaving a charitable donation in their Will.
(Abridged version of a NZ Herald story by Anna Leask - Photography by Brett Phibbs).
What is a bequest?
A bequest is a 'future' charitable donation. It is a method of supporting the work of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopters without it affecting your lifestyle today. Simply put, it is a charitable gift left in your Will.
How do I leave a bequest?
Leaving a bequest is a simple process that your solicitor can implement for you. Once you have provided in your Will for your loved ones, your solicitor can add a gift to our service. If you already have a Will and just want to update it, your solicitor can provide a Codicil document for this purpose, which you will need to date and sign. To see the wording to give to your solicitor to update your Will, CLICK HERE.
What will the money be spent on?
Money received from bequests is used towards the purchase of capital items, such as emergency medical equipment for the team to use on board the helicopter. Currently however, we are saving up for a new up-to-date replacement helicopter, as our two machines are over 25 years old.
What benefit is there for me to leave a charitable bequest?
There are a number of benefits in relation to leaving a gift in your Will. The first and most important one is the knowledge that your gift is long-lasting and will ensure the survival of our service for future generations. It will mean that we can continue to operate two helicopters in the Auckland, Coromandel and Rodney regions, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, enabling us to attend more than 1,000 rescue missions each year. Your gift will be saving lives. To download our bequest brochure, CLICK HERE.
Another benefit reported by our bequestors is the "feel good" factor. It is an amazing feeling to do something so selfless as to leave a legacy not only for your own family, but for countless other families too.
The wonderful thing about the service we provide is that it is not restricted or specific. We rescue people of all nationalities, ages, genders or religions.
And thirdly, by leaving a bequest you will automatically be welcomed into our Supporter for Life program.
What is the Supporter for Life program?
By leaving a bequest, you will automatically be welcomed into our Supporter for Life (SFL) legacy program. You will receive a welcome pack, a badge to wear with pride, and get invited to our annual Christmas morning tea at the helicopter base. You will receive a quarterly update of what has been happening with our service and get invited to other events throughout the year. The Supporter for Life program is our way of thanking you for your future support of us.
If you would like to know more, please call:
Planned Giving Manager
Ph: (09) 950 7222
Mobile: 021 2748458
Supporter for Life, Regular Supporter, Ex-Patient
In September 2016, Jo began to feel ill, suffering symptoms similar to a mini-stroke. Intensive Care Paramedic, Bruce Kerr, was on-board the helicopter that day and the crew flew Jo to Auckland City Hospital in a serious condition.
"I was already a regular supporter and had also left a gift to the service in my Will, and now I am so glad I did. It's a service I have always believed in and one you know is going to save an awful lot of lives.
Leaving a gift was an easy and simple process and something I would encourage others to do if they want the helicopter to be around in the future."
Supporter for Life, Regular Supporter, Volunteer
"Having been to the helicopter base and heard about how the service works, it's an organisation I truly wanted to help. I always tell everyone, 'you never know when you are going to need it' and as it turns out, someone dear to me did need it recently."
Supporter for Life, Supporter, Ex-Patient
"When I fell 30 metres down the Castor Bay cliffs, the tide was in and the seas were crashing over the rocks where I lay. I was seriously injured and was getting very cold. I told emergency services by cell phone that the only way I could be rescued would be by helicopter. How lucky I was that the Auckland Westpac rescue helicopter was equipped with a winch and carried both a doctor and a paramedic.
Unfortunately not every Westpac helicopter is so well-equipped. I’d hate to imagine the outcome if the helicopter that came to my rescue had not been so well-equipped and staffed.
Our donations, yours and mine, help to ensure the service continues meantime. But the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust needs an assured future with full equipment and medical staff on all its flights.
The bequeath in my Will – and hopefully yours as well – will help to provide a continued and improved helicopter rescue service for all of us and our families into the future.
Please join many other New Zealanders: give generously and leave a bequest in your Will to the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust."
A number of people have asked us how they go about donating to our service in memory of a family member or friend who has passed away. Often they wish to do this in lieu of flowers at the funeral. We call this an In Loving Memory donation. To set one up please visit: http://www.everydayhero.co.nz/event/inlovingmemorysfl. Here you can create a Memorial page for your loved one, where messages can be left and donations sent through to our service. If you would like any further information about this service, please contact: Kerrie Spicer - E: email@example.com / P: (09) 625 2733 / M: 021 2748458.
We rely on people like you to help us save lives. Sponsoring a rescue mission means you will contribute funds directly to a specific mission flown by one of our helicopters, potentially saving someone's life.