Saving lives is part and parcel of Steve Orr’s job. As a St John Intensive Care Paramedic (ICP), Orr regularly provides support to the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter crew. But on one particular night, Orr’s persistent effort in the face of many a challenge resulted in the experienced paramedic being awarded a prestigious New Zealand Search and Rescue Council (SAR) Gold Award, the highest award possible.
Rescue helicopter crewman and Trust General Manager Andy Cronin, nominated Orr after a particularly complex mission in May 2017. Tasked with rescuing an adult male patient with life-threatening vital signs at the Tieke Kianga campsite in Whanganui National Park one evening, a change in weather conditions meant the helicopter was grounded.
Orr had limited oxygen and medical supplies to hand and the patient’s condition was deteriorating. It was vital the patient reach hospital as quickly as possible. With the poor weather conditions preventing the rescue helicopter from flying, Orr transported the patient down the river in a jet boat with the support of Joe and Mandy Adam, proprietors of Bridge to Nowhere Lodge, to a waiting ambulance. At this time Orr’s oxygen supplies ran out so for the more than two hours it took the ambulance to drive the windy, mostly metal roads to Whanganui Hospital, Orr used a hand operated bag value mask which he squeezed every six seconds to keep the patient breathing.
Cronin says without Orr’s medical knowledge and intervention, it was unlikely the patient would have survived the night. “Steve’s extraordinary effort, with the help of Joe Adam and Mandy Jackson, who also received the NZ SAR Gold Award, is a reflection of the dedicated personnel we are so fortunate to have contribute to the Rescue Helicopter service.”