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Rescue Helicopter Crew Saves Father’s Life After Workplace Accident: "We Were That Close To Losing Him"

“We will be forever grateful Dad could get to the hospital so quickly because of the rescue helicopter, and straight into theatre for treatment that ultimately saved his life. We were that close to losing him.”

In June 2021, a routine day turned into a nightmare for Paul Foote, an experienced mechanic at his waste and transport operation in Kawerau. Paul had been working on a forklift with a faulty part. As he went to go tighten some bolts on the forklift, the big 700kg fork attachment suddenly came down towards him. Despite his best efforts to avoid the heavy attachment, Paul tripped and fell, resulting in the clamp landing on his legs, crushing his knees.

Being a methodical man, Paul calmly started the process in his mind of how to get out from under the attachment. Paul's employees rushed to the scene and were able to put some pipes under the attachment and pull Paul out. Soon after, they realised the situation was more critical than they thought. One of Paul’s employees quickly tied a tourniquet around his thighs and the Kawerau Ambulance, located only 600 meters from the site, was soon on the scene. Next to arrive was a second ambulance from Whakatane.

Paul and daughter Charlotte (Photo supplied)

Stabilising Paul to transport him to the hospital was becoming increasingly time critical and he as soon labelled a Status 1, which is an immediate life threat. The seriousness of the situation prompted the call for the rescue helicopter, which arrived on scene just minutes from the accident site.

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When the rescue helicopter crew arrived, they could see Paul was in critical condition and in need of immediate transportation. Despite the original plan to take him to Waikato Hospital, the experienced Critical Care Flight Paramedic Flick who was charged with working on Paul, made the quick crucial decision to divert to Tauranga Hospital for urgent care. The rescue helicopter crew called Tauranga Hospital when they were 20 minutes out to let them know that they were going to require blood products. A large trauma team was waiting for Paul when the rescue helicopter arrived at the hospital.

“Dad owes his life to Flick, Todd & the crew on board the rescue helicopter that day,” says Charlotte, Paul’s daughter.

Not knowing what she was going to face when she got to the hospital, Charlotte drove straight from her home in Cambridge to Tauranga Hospital negotiating traffic to get as quickly to her Dad’s bedside as possible.

“At one point I was so stuck in traffic I considered running the rest of the way to the hospital, I desperately wanted Dad to know I was coming.”

Paul had sustained massive crush injuries to his knees, which resulted in his right leg having to be amputated above the knee in a 6-hour emergency surgery. Fortunately, Paul’s left leg has healed well. Paul spent a month in the hospital and a further 3 months in a wheelchair.

“Dad & I are just so grateful for not only the care and experience provided on the day, but for the follow-up when we were able to meet Flick two days later whilst Dad was still in ICU.”

“Flick came to find him to make sure he was still alive and kicking, albeit with one less leg than when she’d met him two days prior. She is absolutely Dad’s hero, and he will forever be indebted to her for the lifesaving treatment she provided while in the air that day.”

Paul is now back at work as Head Mechanic and moving around the yard as best he can, using his prosthetic leg on a permanent basis. Although he is at a slightly limited capacity to what he had been prior to his accident, he constantly tries to adapt and discover new solutions whenever something is particularly challenging.

“We can never put into words just how grateful we are, as a family, for those actions that Wednesday afternoon. Not only is he an amazing Dad, but he’s the most wonderful husband, grandfather, brother, uncle, boss & friend; I’m so thankful to have met the chopper crew instead of the funeral director, it came that close.”

Missions like Paul’s happen everyday and it’s what happens next that makes the difference… YOU make that difference. Donate to this year's Chopper Appeal, so that your rescue helicopter crew can continue to save lives like Paul’s -

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