Make it an XL!

His initials say it all, “Go big or go home!”

Young Xade Lillyman must have got the memo!

This happy, healthy boy, who recently celebrated his first birthday, made quite an impression on the day he was born. Much like his famous ex-professional Rugby League player Dad, Jacob “Ox” Lillyman, Xade made his own headlines when he was born onboard the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter on 18th October 2020.

The place of birth on his certificate says it all.

“Xade’s a bit of a unit,” says Jacob, who is also big in stature and heart, “He loves a rough up, dirt, water…”

“And anything he’s not allowed to have,” mum Tui-kay Cole jumps in, “…laptops, remotes!”

Their immediate whānau, which includes older sisters Arāni (5 years) and Kaea (3), were on Waiheke Island, staying at Tui-kay’s family home, when things got very real, very fast.  

Jacob says he was proud of the way Tui-kay handled the speedy arrival of their son.

“I tried to put myself in relax mode which probably isn’t very good being on the island!” Tui-kay says.

The couple met when Tui-kay worked at radio station Flava, who sponsored the Warriors, before taking on her current role of Relationship and SME Lead with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Maia.

“Having six older brothers, league was naturally a big part of our lives,” Tui-kay laughs.

Now retired with 17 years as a professional player under his belt, one might assume Jacob would be cool, calm and collected at the birth of his son.

He says he was anything but.

“When Tui-kay’s contractions went from bearable to the real ones, it was like the flick of a switch,” Jacob says, “That’s when my stress levels went up a notch!”

“Once I saw the chopper, I felt instant relief,” he recalls, “Now the professionals were here. We knew we were in good hands.”

Recently, crew were reunited via video conference with the family the day after Xade’s first birthday. Jacob and Tui-kay wanted to say thank you but crew wanted to thank them also.

Intensive Care Paramedic Ross Aitken remembers Xade’s birth well. While Ross had delivered babies before, it was the first time he’d done so in a helicopter. Crew that day consisted of Ross, Pilot Jason “Haggs” Haggitt, Air Crew Officer/Co-Pilot Vasya Makhinko and Pre-Hospital and Retrieval Medicine Doctor, Jocelyn Andruko.

“We thought it would be a fairly routine flight but we always prepare should anything happen,” Ross recalls, “I think we’d just crossed over Motuihe Island and Jocelyn and I had just finished discussing a plan. I took one quick look and bubs head was popping out! I think there was just one more push and he was out. Our part wasn’t that much. You did all the hard work Mum,” Ross says of Tui-kay, “We just sorted the paperwork out!”

Jason says, “Ross talks it down a bit.” While Jason and Vasya could do very little from the cockpit, they looked wide-eyed at each other as Ross said through their headsets, “I think we’re going to have a baby!”

Vasya says, “We were in absolute awe at how calm Ross was.” It was Vasya’s job to call the hospital and let them know they had a plus one passenger on board.

Ross says he found the whole experience a complete joy and privilege.

“In our job we see a lot of tragedy and people having their worst day,” he says, “Although we would describe this as an emergency, it was a real pleasure to be involved in something so positive. A real career highlight for us all.”