Teena Foster has had so many encounters with the Northland Rescue Helicopter Service that the flight nurse eventually knew her by name.

The Far North mother of five's first experience was due to a suspected ectopic pregnancy. After getting the all-clear, she found herself mid-air once more when she went into early labour at 27 weeks during her third pregnancy. The labour was withheld and Bailey (now 16) was born around the due date.

However, at six days old he took a last gurgling breath 'and was gone'.

"We were at home at the farm and I would have normally put him down to sleep but a friend rang up to ask if she could come and see the baby," says Teena, who was already paranoid after her sister lost two babies. "He had jaundice so when she left, I was sunning him. It wasn't warm enough to have him outside so we were sitting in the four-wheel drive. Bailey was asleep in the capsule in the back and I had my one-year-old sitting in the front with me.


"I heard this last breath gurgle and jumped out of the ute and went running around to him. He was only yellow, he had no other colour and he was gone."

Teena's husband heard her scream from down the back of the farm and ran in behind her as she was carrying out CPR in the house.

"I didn't realise you can actually overdo CPR and my husband had to tell me to stop as Bailey was breathing again. I would not have known what to do if the maternity services at Kaitaia Hospital hadn't shown us a video on CPR and got us to practice on a manikin."

They drove to Kaitaia Hospital where Bailey was monitored. "They said he looked fine and then he did the exact same thing to them. Emergency kicked in and they did a lumbar puncture. Then we waited for a helicopter to arrive."

Once in Starship, Bailey repeatedly stopped breathing and the doctors were at a loss to explain what was causing it.

"They called it a near-miss cot death and the doctor said if he had been in bed and I hadn't heard this happen, I would have walked in on a dead baby," recalls Teena, who still gets emotional at the memory.

The family were sent home with an apnea monitor, which they used for a year and Bailey continued to stop breathing around four times a day. However, the monitor, which was strapped onto his stomach and emitted a constant ticking noise in rhythm with his breathing, would set off an alarm each time he stopped.

Then one day Teena's husband Roger suggested they take Bailey to her chiropractor.

"Our son was only looking one way and the doctors thought he might have a hearing problem. The chiropractor discovered Bailey's neck was all jammed up. He thought it might have been from when I began having contractions while the baby was in the breech position."

After the first chiropractor session, the bouts stopped and never occurred again. Bailey has had no further encounters with the rescue helicopter. However, his mother has.

Teena, who went on to have two more children, was involved in a head-on collision with all her children in the vehicle.

"The kids were mostly fine, apart from one of the boy's teeth going through his lip. I had my baby girl in the capsule on the bench seat with us and turned to grab her car seat and got side-ways whip lash. The helicopter was called but, as it went to land, the weather changed so it had to return. I ended up going by ambulance - it was a slow ride."

Teena has now had a straight 12-years of not needing the service, and although she is hoping there will not be a next time, can't sing its praises enough.

"The fact that we can live in such a beautiful place that is rural, yet have the peace of mind that we've got the air helicopters come out to our rescue if we need it, we feel very blessed."

She says it got to the point where the flight nurse knew her name.

"She said: 'Gidday Teena, I think you might start needing some air miles'. I wish I knew her name but I wasn't able to take much in.

"The team have been amazing every time I've dealt with them and they're so calming. They don't just see you as a number, but a person and they look after you, as well as your child.

"I'm just so grateful to them and Bailey has grown into a wonderful boy. But he goes very silent when I talk about it.

"Oh, and my husband recons I don't snore - I tick!"