“I’m in trouble.”
The last thing Mary Shaw expected to hear when she answered a call from her husband Greg at 8.55am on February 3.
Mary was at her daughter’s home in Havelock North. Her husband Greg was checking stock on their farm, nearly 30km away in Mangatahi.
Mary’s daughter heard the phone call and heard Mary say, “What’s wrong? She guessed it was Greg and asked if she should call an ambulance.
Thus began a four-way phone call that sent the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter on its way to save Greg’s life. Greg relayed the details to Mary, who repeated them to her daughter – who was on the phone to the 111 call centre.
Greg had been riding his quad bike up a steep track. He can’t remember what happened and has no recollection of anything going wrong. It was pure chance that Greg had crashed his quad bike in an area that had cellphone reception, although he does carry a locator beacon.
He told Mary he was injured and had head, neck and shoulder pain. He described where he was and added “don’t send an ambulance, it wont get up the track. I want the helicopter’.
“That was unlike Greg. ‘I want the helicopter’. But he knew what he needed and the call centre took him at his word’” says Mary. “As I rushed for home I could see the helicopter already in the air.”
Mary had also called neighbours, one of whom was a nurse, to help Greg.
“I was worried he might be bleeding and he is on blood thinners.”
Greg can’t remember any of it, apart from his neighbour telling him, “The helicopter’s here,” and then finding himself in Hastings emergency department.
He had fractured his spine at C2, one of the cervical vertebrae and he was lucky not to be paralysed – or worse. “It would have been curtains if I had tried to move,” Greg says.
Greg spent three weeks in hospital – in intensive care at first. He was put into a traction halo that immobilised his head and spine. The traction halo had to stay on for 10 weeks.
Now, with the halo off, Greg wears a cervical collar when he is moving about or being driven in the car. He can’t drive yet, Mary is doing most of the livestock work on the farm and the fencing and stock work he does for several farming clients are not an option.
“Not for a few months yet.” Greg says. But he and Mary can’t say enough in praise of the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter.
“Greg was in hospital 40 minutes after the call-out,” Mary says. “The efficiency was spectacular. To be able to get a paramedic to his side so soon after the accident was amazing. It was 30 degrees out there that day and Greg was badly injured. Any delay could have been tragic.”
Greg may never know what happened that day – he has been told that quad bike riders are one of the rescue helicopter’s most frequent call outs.
“I have ridden a quad for more than 30 years – but nearly anyone who rides one has an accident story. Often you are not paying full attention as you are moving stock, working dogs, checking out pasture . . .”
But whatever went wrong for that split second, everything else went right, says Mary.
“We are extremely thankful to the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter service and think everyone should recognise how important it is and support it. You never know when you or someone you care about may need the service – anywhere from the beach to the district’s roads, especially places where an ambulance can’t go or time is crucial.”
Hastings Karamu Rotary Club is presenting the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter Cocktail Party on May 27 at the Hawke’s Bay Opera House.
This annual fundraiser is a chance to get glammed up and support the helicopter service – as well as win raffle prizes from wine to a hot air balloon ride and take part in an auction featuring art, wine, holidays and helicopter trips.
Tickets are $90 and can be purchased from:
Thomson’s Suits (Hastings).
Grieve Diamond Jewellers (Hastings).
House of Travel (Havelock North).
Advintage (Havelock North).
Amcal Pharmacy (Waipukurau).
Photo caption – SUPPORTERS: Greg and Mary Shaw, firm supporters of the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter.