"Len Tiwini awoke in a cold sweat"

He was struggling to breathe.It was just after midnight on 24 November 2015 in Karioitahi, just outside of Waiuku, when Len started fighting for his life. “I have experienced breathing difficulties before, but nothing like this,” the 67 year old father, grandfather, and great grandfather recalls.

Len managed to give his wife Rawinia a gentle nudge.“I couldn’t even get up,” he says.“You couldn’t even talk,” Rawinia says, “You were gasping for air. I’d seen him like this before, but it was never this bad.”Rawinia called the ambulance.

Len remembers first responders, emergency partner St John, getting to their rural property fast and giving him something to help with his breathing. He doesn’t recall much after that.

This is where Rawinia helps fill in the gaps.“Len wasn’t very well at all. If the ambulance crew were to drive Len to hospital, there was a chance we might lose him. That’s when the helicopter was called in and it came very quickly too,” she says.Westpac 2 landed in a paddock, on the other side of the road, adjacent to the family home.“We were lucky there weren’t any cattle in there!” Rawinia laughs.

“The crew were amazing. It was very dark and they had to calm me down too,” she says, “I was a bit frightened about going in the helicopter. It was my first time!”Len and Rawinia were transported to Auckland Hospital in just 19 minutes from take-off. “Without the assistance of the crew, I think I would have been in dire straights,” Len says.“That’s quite true,” Rawinia says, “I think we would have lost him if they weren’t there.”  

When Len awoke the following day, the doctors were very surprised to see he’d pulled through.“They were amazed at how quick the recovery was, considering the condition I was in,” he says, “It was a blessing. A real miracle!”. Len was in critical care for five days.

So shocking was the incident, Len and Rawinia have moved into Waiuku town.The family are very grateful that the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was able to come to their aid.“I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart for all the effort they put in to saving my life,” Len says.

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