A Top Secret Mission
Crew of the Auckland & Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopters were tasked to an altogether different kind of mission during the September school holidays.
Chopper-crazy Liam Holbrook hasn’t needed our air rescue service before, but he often spots Westpac 1 and 2 coming in to land and take off at Starship. Young Liam is no stranger to the children’s hospital. He’s been admitted there fifteen times.
The little battler from Whangaparaoa was born with a complex heart condition that left him on oxygen 24 hours of the day since he was one and a half. Liam has survived many illnesses and two heart surgeries, against many odds. The family awaits news if he will be a candidate for a heart transplant in the future.
A highlight of his stay, Liam watches the choppers from his hospital bed.
“He sits there in awe just watching as the crew stretcher someone out or in and take off again,” Mum Simone tells us, “I’ve explained that when the helicopter lands it’s usually because they’ve got someone inside who is hurt and needs the doctors and nurses to help them. The choppers have been a welcome distraction and relief during often intense and busy times.”
Liam has celebrated a number of significant milestones over the past few weeks including his fifth birthday and, most recently, coming off his oxygen.
“He’s a lot more mobile now and couldn’t be happier,” Simone says, “At first he squealed and just ran to the playground - pretty much because he could! Liam is literally off the short leash that he’s known most of his life!”
That’s when we struck upon an idea that might just prove to be the icing on the cake. Why not invite the Holbrooks down to base to see the choppers up close? On Tuesday 27th September, Liam, Dad Carl, Simone, and siblings Keira (9) and Flynn (7), did just that. A total surprise for the kids, we’re happy to report the mission was a complete success.
The visit included a chance to meet the crew, see the helicopters up close, and have a shot at flying in the helicopter simulator, followed by morning tea. Liam was pretty shy at first, but it didn’t take long to see the charm and cheekiness that wins the nurses over and has won him not one, but two girlfriends to date!
We’re looking forward to staying in touch with Liam and his family. This special mission was certainly the highlight of our day.
Family Name Lives On
Shirley Morris from Hibiscus Coast knows what it is like to experience the loss of loved ones. Just one year after losing 45 year old son Ron to a heart attack, Shirley would say goodbye to her sweetheart Keith, her husband of 49 years, to prostate cancer.
Despite these tragedies, the Morris family has never forgotten the rescue helicopter crew’s efforts to keep Ron alive.
“I remember that the crew were amazing,” Sharon, Shirley’s daughter, says, “They worked on my brother for about 40 minutes. They did their utmost to try and save Ron.”
Since these losses in 1998 and 1999, the family have determined that something positive should come from the experiences. Keen hot rod enthusiasts, the Morris family believe the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter was the “perfect vehicle” to turn their attention to.
Sharon’s 59’ Pink Cadillac is a familiar sight around the Hibiscus Coast. A member of Hibiscus Rodders Inc, Sharon and her club have generously supported the Trust for seven years through their popular Hibiscus Rodders Beach Festival event. To date, Hibiscus Rodders have raised more than $100,000 to assist our fundraising efforts - an amazing result!
Now recognised as one of New Zealand’s top five classic car events and attracting crowds of around 50,000 over the weekend, the club is looking forward to the eighth show from 27-29 January next year. Sharon is pleased that festival goers are recognising that the show is in support of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and coming prepared to give to the cause. Once again, participants can buy a programme with the chance to win a trip for two to the USA, amongst other amazing prizes.
Shirley is doing her bit too. Recently she made a very generous donation to purchase three new Alpha flight helmets for new crew members Casey Drum (Intensive Care Flight Paramedic), Aaron Knight and Simon Owen (Crewmen, Co-pilots). Two of the helmets bear the names of Ron and Keith Morris, in memory of them, while the third helmet is dedicated to Sharon.
Shirley thinks everybody should take a dollar out of their weekly pay packet to support our rescue helicopters.
“It should be compulsory,” she says, “The time might come where any of us might need them.”
If Ron and Keith were alive today, mum and daughter believe they too would be driving caddies along with the rest of the family. Thanks to the family’s wonderful efforts, their names live on.
The Beadle family have supported the Auckland & Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service through their company ‘Safety & Apparel’ for 12 years. Little did Brendan and his wife Allie (Allison) know that, just a few years in from starting their Whitianga safety and apparel supply business, they would need the service themselves.
In September 2006, Brendan went to see a customer in Thames. He never made it. Allie heard her husband was involved in an accident. Word got out fast. Their son, Mitchell, was just six months old at the time.
“Brendan’s vehicle hit another on a bend,” Allie recalls, “Knocked unconscious, he couldn’t get out.”
The young dad sustained multiple injuries, including a traumatic brain injury.
“He lost a lot of blood. Once Brendan was removed from the vehicle, we were flown to Middlemore Hospital. I was advised that he may not pull through and to prepare for that,” Allie says.
Despite the odds, Brendan did pull through.
“You can see why our extended family is so committed to this cause.”
Today, Brendan walks with a rod to support his leg, but he’s doing well. So too is the family business. Mike and Sue (Brendan’s brother and sister-in-law) became directors.
The company has moved its main warehouse to Hamilton and a new branch in Auckland has opened. Brendan and Allie have moved to Christchurch where their new South Island warehouse is based. The company employs over 30 staff.
Thank you Safety and Apparel for your amazing commitment to the Westpac Rescue Helicopters and saving the lives of others over the years.