Motocross rider Todd Mullinder is alive today because he had emergency surgery on the back of a ute.
The father of three suffered a punctured lung, a crushed chest and head injuries after flipping his motorbike at remote Glinks Gully beach, Kaipara.
Gasping for breath and in agony, Mr Mullinder, 45, from Te Kopuru, could take in limited air only by leaning over a chilly bin.
Without the Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew sent from Auckland, he would almost certainly have died.
"When the doc was trying to treat me on the back of a ute I was in so much pain I tried to give him a kicking," he said. "It took four guys to hold me down while the doctor cut a hole in my side so I could breathe properly. I had to apologise to everyone afterwards."
The incident in January is one of many dramatic rescues featured in the new series of TV2 reality show Code:1.
Intensive care flight paramedic Rob Gemmell said it would have been touch and go if the on-board doctor had not inserted a chest drain to relieve pressure on Mr Mullinder's lungs.
"The patient's chest had been crushed and I pumped him with pain-relief drugs while the doctor cut a hole in his side."
Pump technician Mr Mullinder, also a volunteer firefighter, was then airlifted to Whangarei Hospital.
"The accident happened on my 12th wedding anniversary," he said. "Before I set off ... I told my wife, Nyree, I wouldn't give her a big smoochy kiss until I got back, because we had not been married until 4pm. Needless to say, I didn't make it back that day and I still owe her a proper anniversary dinner."
The rescue is one of more than 600 so far this year by the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust - 35 per cent more than at the same time last year. Each mission costs an average of $5000.
Code:1 is at 8pm Thursdays on TV2.