With a thick branch impaled in her daughter's leg and stuck on a remote island in the Hauraki Gulf, Linda Dunn wondered if they would make it to hospital.

The family had been on Rakino Island for a holiday when Yasmin, 9, while exploring with her siblings tripped over a stump, and a jagged branch pierced straight into her calf muscle.

"She was stuck there with the branch stuck inside her leg," Linda said of the January rescue.

"She just howled with pain."


The branch was approximately 5cm thick, and had gone in about 8cm deep.

"It was really stuck in there. When I got to her, I could see the fatty layer coming out, like an orangey sort of substance pushed out of the leg. It was pretty horrendous to see."

As people tried to help, Yasmin had to balance on her elbows and one knee with her left leg pinned to the branch.

"She had to stay in that position and hold herself up using all her strength to try not to move," Linda said.

"Any small movement was causing her a significant amount of pain."

Finally someone yelled out that the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter was on its way.

"This was the best feeling as a mum," Linda said.

"Those magic words when I realised someone else was going to come and help and they were going to know what to do."

Yasmin Dunn and her mother Linda. Photo / supplied
Yasmin Dunn and her mother Linda. Photo / supplied

The only other option to get Yasmin back to Auckland was on a small boat.

"If you've ever been in a small boat, it bangs up and down on waves when you're going along. I was thinking it was going to be absolutely traumatic for her."

By this time, one of the locals had used garden loppers to chop the branch for the transfer to Auckland's Starship Hospital.

"It was still sticking out of her leg but the doctors gave her some serious pain relief for the journey."

Getting her to hospital quickly was vital for her daughter's treatment, Dunn said.

"They had all the facilities needed in the chopper - it was like a hospital with propellers."

With the Westpac Chopper Appeal kicking off in May, every little bit people could give made a big difference.

"To people who haven't had to use the service yet, I'm saying pay if forward. You don't know when that could be – it could be a medical event for someone who's older, or it could be an accident for your children, and as soon as you need them, you're just so grateful."


This year's Chopper Appeal highlighted the role of helicopter crews in New Zealand's rugged, rural and remote outdoors.

Yasmin's rescue was one of more than 7000 missions undertaken by local rescue helicopters last year, including more than 975 in the Auckland and Coromandel regions.

Westpac NZ general manager of consumer bank and wealth, Simon Power said the helicopters meant the difference between life and death for many New Zealanders.

"They are there for Kiwis when something unexpectedly goes wrong.

"They allow us to still do the things we want to do, from living in remote locations to exploring the far reaches of our beautiful country.

"That might mean going for a tramp in the Hunua Ranges or heading on to the Hauraki Gulf for a spot of fishing."

Westpac is the primary sponsor of the Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Canterbury Westpac rescue helicopters, while funds raised in the appeal went back to the region they were collected from.

Last year the appeal raised $1.3m.

Funding for the country's rescue helicopters comes from the community, fundraising activities, and sponsors.

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust CEO Greg Barrow said they were "extremely thankful" for the community support.

Under new restructuring proposals services in Taupo, Rotorua and Te Anau could be cut.

There have been concerns these cuts could impact on the level of service in those areas.

A Westpac NZ spokesman said although the Government made its own decisions around where these choppers were based, any money raised by Westpac in a particular region would continue support rescue helicopter services in that region, regardless of which town or city the service operated from.

The Westpac Chopper Appeal is supported by fundraising activities in schools and community centres, and a nationwide street appeal on Friday, May 18.