October 18, 2022
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter is an essential service that relies on donations from businesses and the public to help fund its lifesaving work. Many New Zealanders and their families have been the benefactors of the service's ability to get a patient urgently into medical care.
On February 19, 55-year-old electrician Steve Rackham was up a ladder clearing the guttering at home near Karangahake when he fell awkwardly from a height of 3m and 3m out, landing on the left-hand side of his body. He was unable to bear weight on his side and had to be carried to a chair by his friend.
After being assessed by Hato Hone St John's medical staff, Steve was fortunate that a helicopter was on its way back from a just-completed job in Tauranga when the call came from St John to airlift him from Te Aroha Domain.
"So they asked if I could catch a lift," said Steve.
The fall had fractured Steve's femur up high near his hip, which necessitated having it pinned to repair the break.
"It was quite a bad break - they ended up putting in four 4-inch screws," he said.
A long period of recovery followed, and Steve has only recently returned to work. He said the flight in the helicopter was much more preferable to a trip in an ambulance, which was "a lot less comfortable" in comparison with the "quick and smooth" passage of the helicopter. The flight itself took only 20 minutes to reach Waikato Hospital.
Steve acknowledges the help he received on the day, not just from the helicopter staff and St John, but "a volunteer fireman" and other medical staff who helped put him at ease.
He now views the service as paramount to those living in coastal and rural towns.
"It's definitely an essential service, I have personally donated a hundred bucks a year over the past few years."