July 16, 2020
Cameron Brydon, in the prime of his life at 17 years, may not be alive today had it not been for the love and care of others, and what some may call a few miracles along the way.
“The police came to our home first,” Cameron’s grandad Terry recalls, “It was Margaret, my wife, who answered the door and first received the news that our grandson was involved in a terrible road accident.”
It was 4am, 1st December 2019 in Raglan when the grandparents of two were awoken.
“We lived next door to Lawrence and Mel, Cameron’s parents. While his mum and dad made their way to Waikato Hospital, all we could do was hope and pray.”
The family said Margaret was a big part of how Cameron pulled through the motor vehicle accident that sadly claimed the life of the teenager’s best mate (the driver) and left Cam and another friend with multiple injuries.
“Margaret was by Cameron’s side during many long nights following the accident,” Terry explains.
“Cameron and his nana were very, very close,” Lawrence says.
As Cameron fought, what Lawrence called “the fight of his life”, the Brydon family faced another great loss – Margaret sadly passed away.
Mel is forever grateful how the Raglan community, many of whom she considers family, rallied together to support the family in their grief.
“Our boys went to kindy and school together. They played rugby together. For everything that went wrong, there were many things that ensured Cameron’s survival. He had a lot on his side going for him,” Mel says.
Recently, the family caught up with Pre-Hospital and Retrieval Medicine (PHRM) Doctor Alana Harper, who was by Cameron’s side as the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter flew Cameron to Waikato Hospital, at one point, holding his hand on the way.
“Cam was alone and he was being very brave. He didn’t have his family there to comfort him. As a Mum myself, I understand what it feels like to think of your kids hurt and alone,” Alana says.
Alana remembers the night well. Cameron, on the other hand, remembers nothing of the traumatic experience. He had fallen asleep in the passenger seat. The first thing he remembered was waking up from a coma four days later.
“We had just completed another mission at Waikato Hospital when we were tasked to assist Cam,” Alana says, “We had two units of whole blood on board that had not been needed for the previous mission and we were less than ten minutes away.”
For Alana, the helicopter and crew are just one small link in the greater chain of survival from severe trauma, which includes first responders and emergency services (police, fire, road ambulance providers), the amazing clinicians and surgeons in the Emergency Department, ICU and wards of Waikato hospital, the nurses, physiotherapists, health care assistants and the rehabilitation teams. And also, just as importantly, whānau.
The family said there were many extraordinary circumstances along the way.
"Another vehicle was following behind the boys,” Mel explains, “It was a remote location where the car left the road. Apart from tyre marks and a broken tree branch, there was no visible sign of the car from the road. It could have taken hours to find them.”
Lawrence says that another factor in their son’s survival was he was extremely fit. Alana agrees that Cameron’s health had a big part to play in his recovery.
Cameron had recently left school to do curb-side collection for waste management.
“We don’t have a fancy automated arm like Auckland does to load rubbish on to the trucks,” Cameron jokes.
He estimated he would lift 12 to 20 tonnes a day.
The family also agree that one of the most important factors in Cameron’s survival was having the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter and its crew readily available.
It was tasked, alongside the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter, to deliver life-saving care.
“The road ambulance crew did a fantastic job getting lines in and giving pain relief,” Alana recalls, “placing a stabilising collar around his neck and also applying a band around his pelvis to protect it.
“When our Intensive Care Paramedic, Marcel Driessen, and I saw Cam for the first time in the ambulance, I remember his blood pressure was so low it was unrecordable and he looked grey. We made the decision to administer the first of the two units of blood right then and there.”
“There’s a certain point where a patient looks like they may not make it. Cameron was at that point. It was amazing seeing what that blood would do for him. His blood pressure improved, he got a bit of colour back, and he became less agitated.”
Administering a blood transfusion is one of a number of life-saving medical procedures the Westpac Rescue Auckland crew performed, having a PHRM Doctor on board.
“We also did an emergency ultrasound on his tummy, which confirmed there was bleeding into his abdominal cavity,” Alana says.
The extent of Cameron’s injuries was major.
In addition to internal bleeding and a fractured neck which needed a surgery and a titanium plate to stabilise it, Cameron suffered multiple broken ribs, a collapsed lung, kidney and liver damage, and his spleen needed to be removed.
The biggest losses Cameron suffered though, was learning his best friend had passed away and losing his nana.
“People often forget about the emotional and psychological effects of trauma,” Alana says, “the impacts of this can take a very long time to heal.”
Mel says Cameron’s journey to recovery has been long.
Cameron spent four days in Waikato Hospital’s Intensive Care and High Dependency units. Ten days after the accident, he would walk out of Waikato Hospital unaided. Although he has frequented the hospital many times since, Cameron is determined to get on with life and get back to work.
Alana was overjoyed to hear of Cameron’s progress when Terry got in touch to kindly offer making a donation to the charity. Terry says it would have been the end of his world if his grandson hadn’t pulled through.
“When I’m gone, it will be up to Cameron’s generation to take over,” Terry says.
He isn’t surprised that his grandson has come so far.
“Cameron always impresses me with how he can fix things,” Terry says, “If something is broken, he isn’t afraid of a bit of hard work.”
For his family, it’s Cameron’s can-do attitude and ‘a lot on his side’ that’s helping him get through.
There are many ways you can support the ongoing work of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter such as sharing your rescue story or leaving a gift in your Will to support next generations like Cameron’s.
For more information on leaving a bequest, please contact your new Planned Giving Manager Arthur Brewer on (09) 950 7222.