A severe and surprising case of meningitis threatened to end the life of two-week-old Northland baby Dorothy Henare.
Cable Bay based mum Renee Henare has credited the Northland Rescue Helicopter and its team of rescuers with the fact she is able to cradle a smiling "Dottie" in her arms three months later.
"I think if she hadn't gone on the chopper she wouldn't be here."
And Henare urged the community to get behind the region's annual fundraising appeal for the rescue chopper service.
"I have seen the choppers flying around here often but it isn't until you need them that you realise how vital they are - they are awesome."
Earlier this year on August 4 Dorothy had a routine one-week-old check in the morning where everything seemed fine, the experienced mother of seven said.
"She was a bit tired but I thought it was because she had been constipated for a while and she had the appointment."
A lethargic Dorothy drifted in and out of dozes with Henare thinking sleep would help her daughter wake up revitalised.
But the next 24 hours would transform into one of the most perplexing and stressful experiences of the 41-year-old mother's life.
"The next day she was really hard to wake up. She wasn't feeding. She would open her eyes, start crying then go back to sleep while in the bath," Henare said - adding that Dorothy usually loved bathtime.
Henare's concern escalated when her daughter's healthy pink complexion turned a "greyish-blue" and her body became floppy except for unusual twitches in her arms and legs.
"She started having seizures at home. I was really worried - meningitis isn't something I had seen before with my other kids."
Following a call to her midwife seeking advice, Henare and Dorothy were rushed by ambulance to the Taipa Sailing Club where the Northland Rescue Chopper would transport the pair to Whangārei Hospital.
The 40-minute chopper ride seemed never-ending for Henare but the "awesome" paramedics were a huge help.
"They were both really assuring, especially with baby and the state she was in. I'm just really grateful," she said.
"In all honesty, if it wasn't for the Northland Rescue Helicopter that day and getting us to Whangārei so quickly, I think my baby would not have made it."
On arrival to Whangārei Hospital Dorothy crashed and had to be resuscitated. Henare also learned the newborn - on top of seizures - had suffered several strokes.
"Her brain was a bit of a mess when we got to the hospital."
After Dorothy was stabilised, completed tests diagnosed her with meningitis which has scarred her with the long-term effects of severe epilepsy and a brain injury.
Henare said her daughter may also have hearing loss and cerebral palsy as a result of the illness but she has to wait until Dorothy is older for confirmation.
"... but she is here with us and smiling away. That is the main thing. She is a beautiful baby."
The annual fundraising appeal for the Northland Rescue Helicopter service launched in October with Northland electricity lines companies Northpower and Top Energy keen to match public donations dollar for dollar up to $200,000.
The 2019 appeal raised just under $250,000 and general manager of the service, Vanessa Furze, is hoping to raise a similar amount in 2020.
"It's been a challenging year for us all and to top it off, we are tracking for our busiest year on record which will see us fly close to 1000 missions this year," she said.
The crews responded to 112 calls in October alone - up from 63 in October 2019 - and with 891 rescue missions to the end of October, compared to 765 at the same time last year.
Northpower chief executive Andrew McLeod said the annual fundraising campaign was a good reminder of how important the Northland Rescue Helicopter service is to the community.
"It is very reassuring to know that we have a world-class air ambulance service right here on our doorstep, ready to save lives 24/7.
Family fun day
Get up close to a variety of Northland's emergency services at the annual Caring for Northland Emergency Services Family Fun Day this Sunday at Whangārei's Kensington Park.
Fire, ambulance, police, Northland Rescue Helicopter, Red Cross, Northland Search and Rescue, maritime rescue, water safety organisations and more will have a mixture of demonstrations, giveaways, and interactive events for people to enjoy.
The day is designed to let locals know what services are available to help and also to spread educational messages that prevent death and serious harm in the community.