Two women from different sides of Auckland have shared a unique bond as the result of life-saving rescues by the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
Mona Uta, from Mangere, and Sarah Page, from Greenhithe, embraced each other at the helicopter base on Wednesday, as they met for the first time and shared tearful accounts of their brushes with death.
For 33-year-old Uta, January 2 is a day she will likely never forget.
On a routine walk up Mangere Mountain, Uta found herself gasping for breath and having chest pains, before she lost consciousness at the top of the 106m peak.
"I had done it heaps of times but this time was a bit different because I wasn't feeling too good, but I thought I may as well get some air," she said.
"But when we got up there I started to see little stars, the mountain started spinning and I passed out."
Due to the hilltop location, paramedics struggled to get an ambulance to Uta's aid and resorted to calling in the fire brigade and the rescue helicopter.
Uta was flown to Middlemore Hospital in a serious condition.
"They discovered that my heart is no good. One of my valves is not functioning properly, so it is not pumping enough blood through my body."
Uta remained in hospital for about two weeks, and had to come to terms with living with a life-threatening condition that has affected two generations of her family.
"There is family history where both my grandfather and my dad passed away at 37-years-old because the heart beats too fast.
"My father's four brothers and one sister have also all died under the age of 43 from the same condition."
While she faces a lifetime of heavy medication, Uta said the experience has made her appreciate every day.
She has continued a monitored exercise regime and managed to lose 37kg, going from 200kg to 163kg, and is looking forward to getting married in October.
"The person who was handling the helicopter that day did an amazing job because he just had this little platform that he had to try and land on so they could get me in.
"I think if I had tried to come back down the mountain, I probably wouldn't be here today."
50-year-old Sarah Page also credits the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew for changing her life.
The mother-of-three was enjoying the sun, surf and sand at Whangamata Beach when her family holiday took a turn for the worse.
"It was the second day of the holidays and I was very excited to go down to the beach with my sons," she said.
"I remember Nick saying 'the waves are really big, do you think we should go?' and I said 'of course we should'... They were my famous last words."
Page hadn't been body boarding for long when the large waves forced her under water and pushed her head into the sand.
"I think my feet must have gone over my body, my niece described it 'like a scorpion'.
"I remember the most excruciating, unimaginable pain. I was under water and I couldn't move so I had that panic of not being able to get to the surface.
"When I got to the surface I called out to my oldest son and he got me on the body board and floated me in."
Page remembers feeling like the pain was more than she could handle, and thinking she had broken her back.
"Thankfully the Surf Life Saving team came down and helped me get onto a stretcher. I think the rescue helicopter was called pretty quickly afterwards.
"When I got to the helicopter it was such a relief because whatever they gave me changed everything.
"The paramedics coached me through what to expect which made such a difference. I felt so relieved and they were so lovely."
Page was flown to North Shore Hospital with facial injuries and suspected spinal injuries.
On arrival she was cleared for any fractures, given strong pain relief and discharged that day.
"I couldn't sit down for about three weeks, so I just lay down and continued taking the pain medication. It just took time to come right."
Page said she is "really grateful" for the efforts made by the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew.
"I think if I hadn't of had that treatment, I wouldn't have made the good recovery that I did."
Both Page and Uta are set to feature on the season finale of the Code:1 television series this coming Monday night.
Page said she is nervous about the show and hasn't told many people she will be on it.
"It is actually quite emotional to go back and relive it, but it is really great to be able to share the gratitude because it is such an incredible service. "
- The final episode of Code:1 airs at 8pm on TVNZ1 this Monday night, August 21.