Leanne Turner's blood sugar levels were so low, her daughter had to feed her jellybeans and manually move her jaw to chew them.

The typre 1 diabetic's plight was one of a record number of call outs for the The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter this holiday period.

Her blood sugar levels had dropped to the lowest they've ever been.

She was in her tent when her daughter heard her making strange noises.


Turner, 52, was completely unresponsive. Her daughter fed her jelly beans and had to manually move her jaw to get her to chew them.

The Bay of Islands campground they were staying swung into action to prepare for a rescue team on Monday.

A young man drew a giant "H" on the sand at the Urupukapuka site so the chopper knew where to land while someone else went to warn all the people in little tents and those with towels out to pin them down so they didn't blow away by the helicopter.

The rescue crew landed to find Turner's life in the balance.

"I've never been so happy to see someone... I honestly thought I wasn't going to survive," she said.

After the paramedics had worked on Turner, she became coherent and it was decided she didn't need to be transported to hospital.

Instead the campers gave the rescue crew coffee and biscuits and offered to make them breakfast.

Turner wanted to "fly the flag" and raise awareness for the crew's great work. She admired how friendly and reassuring the crew was and how tiny the helicopter is on the inside.

"I was really taken aback by how small it is. They do a fantastic job in a confined space."

Helicopter pilot Paul Robinson said he was grateful for the help people offer to their crews when they arrive.

A young man drew an H in the sand on the right side of the beach on Urupukapuka Island. PHOTO/Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust
A young man drew an H in the sand on the right side of the beach on Urupukapuka Island. PHOTO/Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

On New Year's Day, the rescue helicopter were called out 10 times, beating their previous record of nine.

Incidents included: accidental skateboarding, dislocations and a man who crawled to the road after he fell on rocks.

Paul Robinson said the record was the result of a "perfect storm". He thought people being adventurous, holiday spots being far away from health care facilities and alcohol were all factors.

"People tend to do things they wouldn't normally be doing and have innocent accidents which is a bit unfortunate."

Robinson said one of his most shocking call outs was to a 32-year-old man on December 29. He had lost most of his hand after an accident with an industrial planer.

"He basically chopped most of his hand off. He will need plastic surgery.

"It was quite a sad one. He was a young guy, not being an idiot, just going to work doing his job."

Robinson, who has been a rescue pilot for 10 years, went to three call outs on New Year's Day.

One was a man in his 20s who suffered a head injury, another was a man in his 20s who dislocated his shoulder when he fell from a vehicle and the third was an elderly man with a heart complaint.

Robinson said the doctor and paramedic popped the young man's dislocated shoulder back in while he lay on the ground. He said the two medical professionals were tugging at his arm while the man grimaced.

"He was a very stoic young man, he managed to deal with the pain. It's quite brutal to watch."

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust communications advisor Kerrie Spicer said the service was three times busier with 1100 call outs this year than they were in 2006 when they only got around 400.

Her theory is that the baby boomer population is aging and increasing their number of medical call outs. The service also got a new helicopter in 2010 which doubled their capacity.

"There's more elderly people who are having a lot more medical problems.

"Overall we got to more medical jobs than accidents.

"That's probably one of the reasons why we've nearly tripled and migration. More people are living here and finding themselves in trouble.A lot of people aren't used to our environment, particularly around the water."

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust covers 1.4million people from as far north as Te Hana and as far south as Meremere including the Coromandel and Gulf Islands.

Spicer said there can be up to four people on a helicopter including a pilot, paramedic, crewman (they operate the winch) and doctor.