The Christmas past that almost stole the present


As Debbie Needler gathers her family around the Christmas tree this year to exchange presents, she will have the sure conviction that there is something to celebrate.

An intense headache two days before Christmas 2014 was putting a huge dent in Debbie’s festive preparations. Debbie needed to get on top of the pain. She visited her doctor after trying to sleep it off with no relief. Her doctor administered a shot of pethidine, but the headache just gnawed away at her.

“We rang the health line in Tauranga and an ambulance was called,” said Debbie. “My head was just thumping.”

“A CT scan later showed something untoward and I was raced up to ICU” said Debbie, “but from that moment on, I have no memory of what took place.”

By the time Christmas Eve dawned, Debbie’s condition had severely deteriorated.

The Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter with a specialist team on board, was dispatched that evening to fly in and airlift her to Waikato Hospital for urgent surgery. Before her husband had arrived at Waikato Hospital, Debbie’s surgery was over and she was back in the ward.

Debbie woke up on Christmas Day to the gift of 22 staples, a drain in her head and her life saved.

“We discovered that the headache was caused by a blockage, not a stroke or an aneurism; my blood vessels had just ruptured due to thinning,” she said.

“Because I can’t remember much, I rely on people to tell me a lot of what happened. I didn’t know the rescue helicopter had flown me. I thought my family were lying. They had to show me a photo of the transport to prove I had been flown!” she laughed.

“I am so grateful to those who saved my life,” said Debbie. “I may have never have enjoyed another Christmas if not for my rapid flight in the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter and the skill of the doctors.”