Northland Rescue Helicopter appeal begins

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Damian Roxburgh thought he was going to die then her heard the Northland Rescue Helicopter. PHOTO/Michael Cunningham
Damian Roxburgh thought he was going to die then her heard the Northland Rescue Helicopter. PHOTO/Michael Cunningham

Broken, bleeding and barely able to breathe, Damian Roxburgh started to do his maths.

An ambulance was at least 15 minutes away from Ruakaka and the trip to Whangarei Base Hospital was another 45 minutes.

The 45-year-old motorcycle crash victim knew he was gravely injured. What frightened him most was the struggle to draw breath.

Mr Roxburgh, used to chronic asthma attacks requiring urgent medical intervention, expected to die.

"I knew that time was against me," said Mr Roxburgh.

"I thought I had a half hour at most to stay conscious. Then I heard the helicopter."

Now on a long road to recovery the Whangarei father is thanking the Northland Rescue Helicopter team and promoting the annual appeal that started yesterday.Mr Roxburgh took his emergency flight in February this year and his was one of more than 550 flights already done by the Northland Rescue Helicopter teams this year.

The average cost a call-out is $6800, while a return flight from Whangarei to Kaitaia costs more than $6600.

And with an annual funding shortfall of $1.4m, which is made up of contributions from sponsorship, the Northland Regional Council and public donations, the 2016 fundraising campaign has started.

For every dollar raised by public donations in this year's appeal, two principal sponsors Northpower and Top Energy, will match the figure dollar for dollar up to $150,000.

Mr Roxburgh is thankful there was such a skilled team available to care for him.

"I remember hearing someone saying I was losing a lot of blood," he said, of the February 5 crash from his Ducatti motorcycle on the Brynderwyn Hills.

"I understand now that it was the doctor and that he also applied a tourniquet to my leg. He knew the severity of the situation and was the one who made the call to the Northland Rescue Helicopter."

The rescue crew flew him to Whangarei where a team of surgeons operated for eight hours.

There were multiple breaks and a range of other problems to get a handle on. The internal injuries that were the most threatening.

The lung was an issue and so was a kidney that had been torn away from the ureter - doctors initially feared it was irreparable - they proved themselves wrong. Incredibly he survived.

He had one more flight on the Rescue Helicopter lined up -- a trip to Middlemore Hospital where he spent the next two and a half months having repeated surgeries and skin grafts. Doctors saved his leg and repaired fractures in his left foot, right arm and left wrist.

There is still a way to go and aspects of his future are uncertain as he comes to terms with a body that can't quite do everything it used to.

But he is alive and thankful to all those who saved and got him to the point he is at now.

"When you have an accident of that nature you suddenly find yourself completely helpless and one hundred per cent reliant upon other people for your survival. I am extremely grateful to the people who stopped and helped me and am sure that without the Northland Rescue Helicopter I would have been dead on arrival at the hospital," he said.

- Northern Advocate

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