An induced coma is no way to spend your 13th birthday, but that’s exactly what happened for Koben Hanks in April of 2019.
Just four days earlier his life and those of his family were significantly altered when a drugged driver crossed the centre line just outside of Mangatainoka and collided head-on into the ute carrying Koben, his father Kevin, brother Kasen (15) and family friend, Macauley ‘Mac’ Arnott (13). Tragically, Kevin and Mac were killed instantly.
For Koben’s mum, Robyn it’s hard to put into words just how much their world was altered that fateful day.
“I WAS FOLLOWING BEHIND IN ANOTHER VEHICLE. WHEN WE ROUNDED THE CORNER AND SAW OUR CRASHED UTE I JUST INSTANTLY THOUGHT MY ENTIRE FAMILY HAD BEEN WIPED OUT. I FEEL SO GRATEFUL I HAVE MY SONS, IT COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN ALL THREE OF THEM THAT DIED THAT DAY.”
Koben was in a critical condition having suffered a fractured skull and multiple lacerations. The Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter crew stabilized him and then flew to Wellington Hospital for emergency cranial surgery to relieve the pressure on Koben’s brain. By the time Robyn had driven to Wellington herself some three hours later, Koben was out of surgery and in an induced coma.
Once stabilized, Koben was transferred to Auckland’s Starship Hospital where he spent five weeks – the first of which was in a coma, before undertaking a two-week rehab stint at North Shore’s Wilson Centre.
Thinking back on the events of the past year, Robyn says “We have donated to the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter for years. We hoped we’d never need it, but when we did it was such a relief to have them there quickly. Those precious minutes that the rescue helicopter saved meant Koben can lead a relatively normal life now. I hate to think what it would be like if he’d had to go via a three-hour ambulance ride. We’re both grateful that I don’t have to do ‘stuff’ for him – he’s back playing squash, has taken up golf and is straight back into his schooling. With his hair regrown, it’s almost impossible to see any scars. Really, it’s just the emotional scars that we’ve all been left to deal with.”
Of Koben’s rescue by the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter that day Robyn continues,