Alistair owes you his life | Philips Search and Rescue Trust

Alistair owes you his life

When Alistair Blennerhasset felt a strange sensation in his chest, he immediately called an ambulance.

But Alistair wasn’t having a heart attack. A rare and very dangerous condition known as a perforated aorta was occurring – only experienced by one in 5000 people.

After an accurate diagnosis at Tauranga Hospital, things moved very quickly. It was vital Alistair was urgently transported to Waikato Hospital for immediate surgery.

Liam Brettkelly, pilot of the Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter, had the chopper waiting on the helipad at Tauranga Hospital ready to fly Alistair to the surgery that ultimately saved his life. His doctor and a flight nurse were also on board and the surgeon and operating room were waiting for his arrival.

“Apparently I gave a regal wave to my wife as the helicopter took off,” Alistair laughed.

His wife, Nancy, felt shocked and frightened. The realisation that she may lose her husband of 40 years was now very real. “If we hadn’t had the helicopter to get him over the hill he would have died. He wouldn’t have survived an ambulance trip.” she said.

At Waikato Hospital, Alistair was under the surgeon’s knife for several hours. His organs were shutting down and blood supply was compromised. Finally he was out of surgery and Nancy, who kept vigil in the Intensive Care waiting room, was told it would be touch and go. Alistair was seriously ill and was put in an induced coma for three days on full life support.

But thanks to the rescue helicopter and the skilled medical specialist, Alistair survived.

A grateful Nancy is full of praise for those who were there on that fateful day. “If we hadn’t had the wonderful surgeon in Waikato Hospital who is so experienced and skilled; if we hadn’t had the rescue helicopter to get him to Waikato Hospital; if he hadn’t been quickly diagnosed in ED at Tauranga Hospital; and if he hadn’t had the sense to call an ambulance immediately – he would have died.”

After eight days in hospital, Alistair spent six months recovering at home, building up his strength. He is now doing 30-45 minutes of brisk walking every day and is physically back on track.

“You don’t think it will ever happen to you but it jolly well does. Rescue helicopters and excellent surgical teams were the important combination in my survival. I am so very thankful for their quick response.”

We Need You

Your support ensures rescue helicopters are available to your community.
Your rescue helicopter can be airborne in 10 minutes and, in a life or death situation, this speed and agility can make all the difference. The timely assistance that rescue helicopters provide can reduce disability and improve survival – the sooner treatment begins, the greater chance of patient recovery.

We are partially funded by a government contract with National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO). We rely heavily on the generosity of sponsors and the community to help fund the shortfall that allows us to be rescue ready 24/7, 365 days of the year. This crucial financial support ensures our rescue helicopter can continue to bring life-saving equipment, rescue personnel, and intensive care paramedics directly to the patient.

Without your support, your rescue helicopter would not be able to remain operational on a 24/7, 365 day a year basis. This could mean a serious delay in people being rescued or transported to hospital for urgent treatment.

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