A close call for Finn

The Macleans are a young, tight-knit family of four from Warkworth.

As we juggle our interview with two active boys in tow, Jack (5 years) and Finn (3 years), Jade (Mum) and Sam (Dad) are a well-oiled machine. While one parent focuses on what’s being asked, the other is knee deep in building blocks. When it’s time to swap places, the other already has a storybook in hand. Sadly, one thing they all have in common, is asthma.

At one time or another, this debilitating condition has affected each of them. Asthma and two young boys, with energy to burn, don’t mix very well. Finn developed his breathing difficulties when he got bronchiolitis at just six months of age.

“Ever since, his colds have gone straight to his lungs,” Jade says, “but it’s when our boys aren’t active, that’s when we know something’s very wrong.”

Nothing could have prepared the family for what happened on 24th November 2015.

Finn was ill during the night. Jade watched over her son in the small hours, while Sam took up the next shift.  “I could see Jade had Finn sitting up in his bean bag to help with his breathing,” Sam recalls, “Finn is naturally a very pale boy, but, to me, he looked really pale and he was lethargic too.”

“Sam was worried and woke me up,” says Jade, “We noticed Finn had gone a bit blue under his bottom lip. We knew that wasn’t good, so I said, ‘OK, it’s time to call the ambulance.’”

“The ambulance arrived in no time at all. They took one look at him and said, ‘This is a serious condition. We’ve got to get him to hospital right now!’”.

While ambulance staff supplied Finn with vital oxygen, they determined that, because it was peak hour traffic time on the northern motorway, the rescue helicopter was needed to get the toddler to hospital fast. In 14 minutes, the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter had touched down in a reserve opposite where the family lived. It took just 13 minutes to get Finn to Starship Hospital.

“I think that getting Finn there quickly was the big difference between it going well and going south,” Jade says, trying to hold back tears. “It’s really sad to think had they not been here Finn might not be here today. We’re just really, really grateful Sam, aren’t we?”.

“Yeah,” Sam replies, putting his free arm around his wife. “When it comes to children’s respiratory problems you either go to Waitakere or Starship Hospital – it’s not just a trip to North Shore Hospital. You have to go that much further. Having a rescue helicopter is just like having insurance. You may not ever need it, but if something happens, it’s great to know it’s there.”

Finn remained in a critical condition during the flight and was in Starship’s Intensive Care Unit for three nights. “They were exercising every life-saving asthma protocol you could think of,” Jade recalls, “It was really, really serious.” Finn was readmitted one more night, earlier this year, for further observation.

“If things go downhill, they go down fast,” Jade says, “One moment he could be coughing a bit and then half an hour later, we could be calling an ambulance.”

Almost one year on from the incident, Finn and the family are doing well. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the boy’s health, the family are determined they will continue to lead active and healthy lives.

“One thing’s for sure,” says Sam, “If it wasn’t for the helicopter being there that day, our lives would be a lot different today.”