Brian Coker lost both his legs in the deadly Christchurch earthquake.

And he would have lost his life - along with 185 other quake victims - if not for 46 blood donors; and the earlier heroic actions of first responders who rescued him from under a concrete wall and crack medical teams who performed a series of life-saving operations.

Coker was pinned under the concrete in the collapsed Pyne Gould Building after the February 22, 2011, earthquake.

He was found about seven hours later. An anaesthetist gave him morphine and ketamine, and a visiting urological surgeon from Melbourne used a foldaway knife and a hacksaw offered by a tradesman to amputate his trapped legs, before he was rushed to hospital.
A firefighter, a police officer and a police medic also provided treatment to Coker at the scene.


More than six years on from his near-death experience, and the heroics of the first responders, Coker has spoken out about the need for Kiwis to donate blood and become life-savers during the New Zealand Blood Service's annual donation drive, which is this week.

"Give blood," Coker said. "It is literally life-saving and as the 2011 Christchurch earthquake taught me, you never know just when you will need it.

"Blood donations, as well as the incredible work of medical teams, helped save my life and in found I found out later that I had blood products from the equivalent of 46 donors, so it was not simply the donation from one person that I relied on but many.

"At the time when I was in hospital I never gave a thought to where this blood was coming from. The surgeon just charged 'X' units of blood for me and it happened. It was only much later when I thought about it and realised that it was ordinary New Zealanders who donate blood which ensures that it is there when it is needed."

Coker himself is not able to donate blood.

But he is aware of several family members and friends who now do donate.

Brian Coker with his wife and children while recovering in hospital after the Christchurch earthquake. Photo / Waikato DHB
Brian Coker with his wife and children while recovering in hospital after the Christchurch earthquake. Photo / Waikato DHB

And as the New Zealand Blood Service's 'Know Your Type' campaign begins, he hopes his own story will inspire others to sign up and become a blood donating hero.

"It [giving blood] is such a simple thing to do and if it wasn't for the donors then New Zealand hospitals would not have the blood, plasma and blood products which are needed on a daily basis, not just in times of emergency or disaster," Coker said.


He said he would "love to meet" all of the donors who had helped save his life and personally thank them for their donations.

But he added: "Thank you seems so inadequate when having the blood donations there and available meant saving my life.

"It has been nice however to have met many Blood Service staff including one of the staff on duty at the time of the earthquake who dispensed the blood products that I needed when I was admitted to the emergency department."

More than three years on from the tragic Christchurch earthquake, Australian urologist Dr Lydia Johns-Putra and Christchurch anaesthetist Dr Byrce Curran were awarded New Zealand Bravery Decorations for their exceptional bravery in rescuing Coker.

Firefighter Scott Shadbolt and then-senior constable Danny Johanson also received bravery medals.

Coker said aside from the loss of his legs he had "bounced back very quickly" after the earthquake.

He now walks with the aid of prosthetics.

"My wife, Helen, and I have been determined to get as much of our old lives back as possible," he said.

While he was no longer able to go on lengthy tramps, the pair do go swimming and cycling together; with Coker using a hand bike.

"Having been given a second chance at life I don't want to waste it."

His accomplishments include competing in the New York Marathon on his hand bike.

"I have been fortunate to benefit from a very supportive wife and family, marvellous specialists and medical staff and some great technology," he said.

"But none of this would have mattered at all if the essential blood donations had not been available to me within those first hours after the earthquake."

• NZME is the official media partner of the New Zealand Blood Service's 2017 campaign


The New Zealand Blood Service is running a series of 'Know Your Type' events this week allowing Kiwis to find out what type of blood they have, and become a donor.

Every year the NZBS needs 20,000 new donors to step-up and find out if they are the type to save a life.

All you have to do is come down to an event, find out if you meet the donor eligibility criteria and one of the Blood Service's staff will test your blood through a quick finger prick. Within a couple of minutes, you'll know your type and you can register to donate.

Preference for blood typing will be given to those who meet the donor eligibility criteria which can be found on

Auckland - The Westpac Atrium, Britomart, on Wednesday

Tauranga - Bayfair Shopping Centre, outside Kmart, on Saturday

Hamilton - Chartwell Shopping Centre, level 1, on Tuesday

Wellington - Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, on Wednesday

Christchurch - The Blood Donor Centre, 15 Lester Lane, from Monday to Friday, and the Cashel Street Mall on Friday

Dunedin - Meridian Mall on Thursday

• For full times and more information, visit:


•New Zealand donors gave blood a total 164,000 times between July 2016-June 2017
•Last year donors saved and improved the lives of 27,000 New Zealanders - about 74 people a day
•Each year about 20,000 people leave the donor registry for a number of reasons; including age, ill health, pregnancy, overseas travel and personal choice
•Those defections have to be replaced to keep up with demand
•85 per cent of our population are A and O blood groups, the types most in demand
•More than 50 per cent of Kiwis don't know what their blood type is
•Just 4 per cent of the eligible population are donors; 109,202 New Zealanders
•111,146 whole blood units were collected in 2016-17
•One whole blood donation has the potential to save three lives
•You can donate whole blood every three months
•Whole blood donations (red cell component) only last 35 days
•Platelets must be transfused within seven days of collection
•Plasma can be frozen for up to two years and blood products made from plasma can be stored for up to two years

Source: The New Zealand Blood Service