It took a split second for Alan to lose control of his bike. Thankfully, it only took 9 minutes for the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter to get to him and begin the treatment that saved his life.
The clock was ticking for Alan that night. As he lay on the road under a milk tanker, horrifically injured, his life hung in the balance.
At 10pm on January 15, 2015, Alan was heading home from Auckland after a fun day out with fellow members of the Hamilton Motorcycle Club. The last thing he remembers is waving goodbye to his mates, pulling into a service station to fill up with petrol and texting his wife, Daralyn… “Home soon, love you xx”.
But Alan didn’t make it home that night. He woke up two days later in the Intensive Care Unit in Waikato Hospital, disoriented, unable to move, covered in bandages, tubes, wires and surrounded by beeping monitors. He spent the next three months there, recovering from his horrific accident.
“I didn’t think it was real, to be honest. I thought it was a dream. I couldn’t remember what happened. Then I saw Daralyn’s face and realised something had gone very, very wrong.”
Tucked under Taupiri Mountain, there is a pedestrian island, a handy road crossing for visitors to the Maori burial site. But it was invisible in the dark, signs previously removed by cars running over them plus no lighting! While overtaking a slow-moving milk tanker that night, Alan’s front wheel clipped the poorly marked and unlit pedestrian island.
“My front wheel hit the island, throwing me sideways at around 60kms per hour, straight into the fully laden milk tanker I was overtaking. My bike flew forwards up the road, and I went under the tanker, entangled behind the trailer second wheels.”
Alan was dragged 70 metres up the road before the tanker was able to stop.
When the stunned tanker driver saw Alan’s riderless bike fly right past him and up the road out of sight, he braked as quickly as he could. Distraught and in shock, the tanker driver dialled 111.
“It’s one of those accidents you never forget,” said pilot, Dan. “We respond to emergencies every day, but Alan was in a really bad way. He was losing blood, fast. He had lost a lot of skin, his whole right side was horrifically injured, especially his leg.”
At the same time the rescue helicopter was notified of the mission, a pager went off in the Waikato Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED). Head of ED Muir was on duty that night and, on hearing the details of Alan’s extensive injuries, he knew every passing minute was critical. He made the unusual decision to attend the scene himself – a decision that played a major part in Alan’s survival.
As Muir moved swiftly towards the rescue helicopter and boarded with pilot, Dan and crewman and paramedic Bill, he called his ED team and talked through everything he needed ready when they arrived back with Alan. In just 9 minutes, the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter was at the scene.
Dan knew that in situations like Alan’s and with the amount of blood he had lost, every minute mattered, and he made the decision to keep the helicopter running while the medical team stabilised Alan for his time-critical flight. It was a decision that was crucial in saving Alan’s life.
Six years on, Daralyn says she will never forget the moment she heard a knock on her front door that night.
It was 11pm. She opened the door to two police officers and flashing red and blue lights in the driveway. Her heart was pounding.
“They told me Alan had been in a serious accident, and had been taken to Waikato Hospital in the rescue helicopter. I remember registering, just for a moment, that I was so glad we were supporters of the helicopter. I knew then, he still had a chance,” said Daralyn.
Daralyn woke their daughters, Lauren and Claudia and they drove behind the police car to the hospital in a daze. “I had to call Alan’s mum, dad and sisters in the middle of the night and tell them Alan had been in an accident. It was pretty tough.”
Daralyn’s parents lived on a farm and knew how crucial the rescue helicopter was to remote communities. Their passion inspired Alan and DaraIyn to become supporters themselves. Now, they say, they will be lifetime supporters – because the helicopter saved Alan’s life that night.
“Alan is testament to the fact that the rescue helicopter does save lives. You never imagine you’re going to need it. You never know what’s around the corner,” said Daralyn.
Watching Alan today, laughing and chatting with Daralyn, it’s hard to imagine that six years ago, he was critically injured and fighting for his life.
Alan’s life was saved by the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter that day.