If it weren’t for the Northland Rescue Choppers and a surgeon who thought it was worth a shot, Whangarei man Michael Mead would have his hand amputated following a horrific workplace accident.
Five years ago, the then 27-year-old was working at a large industrial site and driving a forklift when it slid out of control and hit a nearby truck, pinning and then crushing his hand between the two vehicles.
“My hand was stuck between the forklift’s roll bar and the truck and it was agony. I was screaming out and knew it wasn’t going to be good.”
With every bone in his hand crushed and seemingly beyond repair, he was rushed to Whangarei Hospital by ambulance where it was agreed his future with two hands was looking pretty grim.
“My hand was fully crushed. All the metacarpals had been taken out, all the nerves were gone and all the arteries were minced. It wasn’t a pretty sight and I was screaming the hospital down as it hurt so much.”
A last-ditch plea by Michael’s mum and the hope of the doctors at Whangarei saw the rescue helicopters called in to transport him to Auckland Hospital as if there was any chance of saving his hand, then time was of the upmost essence.
Michael still credits the team today with both the fact that the helicopter could get him to Auckland in just minutes in compared to what a road trip would have taken – plus that paramedic on board kept both him and his mother calm during the journey.
“The paramedic was so calm and he had to deal with mum as well who was really worried about me. He stayed with me the whole time and even at the hospital as they prepared me for surgery. As he left, he said to me`come and shake my hand when you are done’ and that gave me confidence in what was a scary situation.”
Within a short time of arriving at the hospital, Michael was in surgery and by the combination of good luck and talented surgeons who undertook the 12-hour surgery, Michael’s hand was put back together and saved!
“I was in Auckland Hospital for two and a half weeks and most doctors who saw me during that time all said that due to my injuries, I should have lost my hand. Now, it’s almost back to normal – I have lost about10 percent movement from it, but I can get out there and hit a boxing bag with it and more. I know I am bloody lucky.”
“If it weren’t for the rescue helicopter taking me to Auckland and getting me there so fast, it would be gone. I would be an amputee. In the past, I hadn’t really thought about giving to the helicopter, I thought I was bulletproof and thought I would never need it. Now, I make sure I give to the chopper and I tell the boys at work to give too. – you just never know when you might need it!”