It was meant to be a weekend of fun and laughter with family but, as Taranaki couple Jan and Craig Knowles were on the road to Auckland to visit their son and soon-to-be daughter in law, the worst imaginable happened. Jan and Craig were hit by an oncoming car on State Highway 3, near Motunui.
Such was the impact that Jan, in the driver’s seat, sustained horrific injuries including a ruptured spleen, fractured facial bones, a fractured pelvis, two collapsed lungs, two broken legs, and a broken arm.
“She was broken,” recalls Craig. “I couldn’t do anything for her. But as soon as I heard the Rescue Helicopter was coming, I felt calmer,” he says. “I knew Jan was going to get the best possible care I could have hoped for.”
Onboard the Rescue Helicopter was pilot Sam Bolton-Riley, crewman Sarah Sharp, and St John Intensive Care Paramedic, Ian May. Jan’s significant injuries meant she needed to be stabilised at the scene before being flown to Waikato Hospital for specialist care.
“It was a huge team effort from all emergency services on the ground,” says Rescue Helicopter crewman, Sarah Sharp. “Once airborne, we continually monitored Jan throughout the flight.”
Meanwhile, Craig, less injured of the two but with minor lung injuries and extensive bruising, was transported to Taranaki Base Hospital via ambulance.
While he lay in hospital, Jan did too, fighting for her life several hours away. “I scored the lowest on the Glasgow Coma Test, which meant I was practically brain dead. However, something within me wanted to keep fighting, and I miraculously woke up two days later” says Jan. Craig says he felt sick, not knowing if news of his wife’s condition was good or bad. “As soon as I heard [she had woken up] I could breathe again,” he says. “I remember just crying with my kids on the phone.”
A year on from the accident, the couple are moving on as best they can. Jan still has complications from her injuries, most notably her right peripheral vision isn’t expected to come back, but she’s building up her strength.
They have also become FRIENDS of the Rescue Helicopter. “Our experience is proof of how life can change in a split second,” says Craig. “You hope it doesn’t happen to your family, but it does. It’s changed us completely.”
The couple are extremely thankful for the services of the Rescue Helicopter. “If it wasn’t for the Rescue Helicopter, I wouldn’t be here,” says Jan.