Apart from a few brief words before she drifted out of consciousness, Joanna Harris had not met the man who saved her life.

Harris' body was broken in a horrific crash that killed her unborn baby. It would have killed her too if Dr Marcus Chan had not been aboard the Auckland Rescue Helicopter.

Harris, who was heavily pregnant, had driven over the Dome Valley Hill near Warkworth in north Auckland. She recalls seeing a van overtaking the cars in front of him, headed straight for her.

She remembers wondering whether to speed up or brake but realised she could not avoid the crash.

She let go, flinging her arm up to protect her face.

"I remember watching my hand . . . fly across off [the] steering wheel and literally snap off my wrist in front of my face."

After that, Harris' memories are fuzzy.

But now she has a clearer idea of what happened after meeting Chan on Monday for the first time.

She was trapped in the vehicle when paramedics and fire crews arrived and bleeding profusely from her internal injuries.

Harris' injuries were "immediately life-threatening", Chan said. The semi-conscious woman had no blood pressure and was screaming from the pain.

The rescuers cut off the top of the car, movedthe engine off her leg, and shuttled her by ambulance to the helicopter.

They put her on a drip for the pain. Her blood pressure was low. Chan did an ultrasound and pushed for her to get to hospital as soon as possible for a blood transfusion, he told Harris.

Dr Marcus Chan from the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust who helped accident victim Joanna Harris. Photo / Screengrab
Dr Marcus Chan from the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust who helped accident victim Joanna Harris. Photo / Screengrab

Harris was tearful as she listened to Chan's account. She has been in and out of hospital over the past six months. She can only stand for five minutes at a time and has minimal use of her arm.

But she considers herself lucky. She was later told nine out of 10 people die from the types of injuries she suffered.

She's lucky for another reason: the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Service is the only one in New Zealand to carry emergency trauma doctors on board. Without Chan, she would likely have bled to death before arriving at the hospital.

The chopper also carries two units of whole blood, including blood clotting components.

It was the mid-air blood transfusion that saved her life, buying her time until they arrived in hospital where surgeons had prepared a theatre. By the time they arrived those two units of blood had been drained.

She had 16 blood transfusions in the first 24 hours, Chan said.

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Joanna Harris in hospital after being rescued by the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust following a severe car accident. Photo / Supplied
Joanna Harris in hospital after being rescued by the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust following a severe car accident. Photo / Supplied

Harris woke up a month later in hospital after being in an induced coma. Her body was riddled with broken bones, she had serious internal injuries including lacerations to her lungs and liver. Her baby - who was at 34 weeks - did not survive.

Monday's meeting was a special one for Dr Chan, who said he rarely got to see the outcome of his work.

"She was in quite a bad way when we found her, so it's really nice to see that she's finally made it home," he said. "It's a good outcome - as good as we could have hoped for.

"You often will get some feedback of what you've done...but we often don't see the effects of what we do, so this is very good.

"It's really satisfying to know what you do does make a difference."