Monique Cherrington knows how vital the speedy and quick service of the Northland Rescue Helicopter is - it's saved the lives of two of her family members.

Thriving 6-year-old Kiarn Cherrington had a pretty shaky entry into the world but thanks to the rescue chopper team he got the immediate medical attention he needed.

Mrs Cherrington, his mum, says without the rescue service she doesn't know if she'd have her son or her father still in her life.

The annual appeal to raise money to pay for the operating costs of the rescue service has started this week.


Mrs Cherrington said that nearly six years ago she was due to have a booked caesarean to birth her baby, who had been diagnosed in utero with spina bifida. But Kiarn had other ideas and wanted to come early.

Because of his condition Kiarn would be born with an opening in his spine and would require immediate surgery after birth.

"We were living in Kaitaia and I went into labour two weeks early. We drove to Whangarei and they tried to stop the labour on arrival, but I went back into labour and was flown from Whangarei Hospital to Auckland," Mrs Cherrington said.

"It was pretty intensive stuff. Flying while in labour is not ideal and when he was born, his spine had been in a bit of a bubble and just burst as he came out. We were very thankful that we had been able to be at the hospital and he could get the care he needed."

At just 24 hours old, tiny Kiarn had surgery to close the opening in his back. One week later he underwent brain surgery to insert a stent.

"For us to be able to use this service essentially saved Kiarn's life. He is so full of life now, such a great kid. The neurological surgery he required was not available at Whangarei and we had to be down there. They got us there, and we will be forever thankful."

Fast-forward a few years, and the helicopter crews helped to save someone else in Mrs Cherrington's life - her father.

"Last year my mum came to stay with me for a few days to help with my newborn baby, leaving Dad in Kaitaia. My Nana popped over to see Dad and realised he didn't look well and said he had been having chest pains. She convinced him to visit our local doctors."

Things took a turn for the worse when he collapsed after a massive coronary, fortunately in the doctor's office.

Three doctors on duty rushed to his aid, resuscitating him and getting his vitals to stabilise while a rescue chopper headed to collect him and take him to Auckland Hospital.

"He had surgery at Auckland Hospital and they inserted a stent in his heart - it is amazing he survived. We were concerned he would have lasting brain damage as he was 20 minutes without oxygen, but he has recovered well.

"We are so very grateful for the rescue helicopters. There are so many isolated families that live in the Far North that just don't have access to specialised medical care in an emergency situation, and they can help break that barrier. The helicopters help to save people's lives and to be honest, there would be a lot more deaths if they weren't around."

She urged everyone to support the appeal.

"You never think it could happen to you - but in our case, it did."

This year the campaign focuses on people of all walks of life, from tourists and sportspeople to farmers, forestry workers, water-sport enthusiasts and those people who live in the rugged rural spaces of Northland. Check out campaign at: