A family holiday nightmare
The Curran family were in a remote bay in the Bay of Islands on 9 January 2015 when the unthinkable happened. Completely out of the blue, five year old Jasmine had a cardiac arrest.
Dad Simon describes what happened; “Jazzy was climbing off the back of our boat. I was taking pictures of her and then she slipped and fell backwards into the water. She was wearing a lifejacket, but I thought that she would be concerned. She submerged then she came back up – but she looked very calm, in fact she looked too calm.”
Instinct told Simon something wasn’t right and he immediately dived into the water and threw his daughter back onto the boat.
“By the time I got back up onto the boat and rolled Jazzy over, she was blue. Her tongue was out of her mouth, and she was passing.”
With only a handful of boats and likely fewer than 20 people in the remote Northland bay this Dad was facing his worst nightmare. He realised the only thing his daughter needed was air but neither he nor his wife knew how to do CPR.
He shouted out from the boat to the others in the bay for a doctor.
“I can still see the faces of people looking back at us shrugging their hands to say no. But somehow on that beach, in early January there was an emergency trained nurse who swam 40 metres to our boat and did 45 minutes of CPR. After about 15 minutes, out of nowhere, a defibrillator arrived, and they swam it out to our boat.”
That life-saving piece of equipment actually came from local firefighters and was swum out to the boat by two boys. Thankfully, a recent awareness campaign pushing for increased availability of defibrillators in remote Northland meant it was on hand.
Knights in shining armour
With a low tide there was just enough beach for a helicopter to land and Jasmine was flown to Whangarei Hospital. Starship was alerted, the Starship National Air Ambulance service was on its way and quickly Jasmine was being prepared for a life-saving flight to the national children’s hospital in Auckland.
“I can remember the moment when the doors flew open and the pilots, doctors and nurses arrived. These people were like knights in armour – they strode towards her body and for the first time I felt like there was a chance that she would make it.”
A shock diagnosis
After arriving at Starship’s Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, Jasmine was immediately put on life support and her parents started to learn more about what had happened to their daughter that day and how incredibly lucky they were.
Jasmine had an undiagnosed heart condition called Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT) and up until that point she was as healthy as any five-year-old girl or boy. But adrenaline can overrun and stop her heart and it’s not something that will show up in a test.
That day while on holiday in Northland, five year old Jasmine had a cardiac arrest.
At Starship Jasmine underwent surgery to have a defibrillator implanted inside her abdomen with wires connecting it to her heart. If Jasmine’s heart stops, the defibrillator is there to re-start it.
Because of her condition Jasmine continues to be cared for and monitored by the team at Starship. Quite literally her every heartbeat is monitored and Jasmine’s care team are quickly in touch if anything needs tweaking or changing. Simon and Nerolie are full of praise for the Starship National Air Ambulance service and very grateful for both the air retrieval team and Jasmine’s care team at Starship.
“I don’t think I will ever find the words to describe what they did and how they did it. They were more than professional - they were the best there are. Everyone had a role to play and it was like watching a symphony orchestra. They knew exactly how to do it and when to do it and what each other were doing. Someone cared for my wife and I while the attention went on to Jasmine. It was a finely tuned machine.”
“The thing about the Starship National Air Ambulance is that you don’t know how important it is until you need it. And the idea of not having it - we wouldn’t have our daughter. There is no dollar value that you can put on that. It literally saves lives. The equation is that straightforward. Without it people die. There is nothing more important.”
More than five years on from that extraordinary day Jasmine, now ten years old, recently completed the school cross country. Simon describes her as vibrant, caring, and energetic – with a lust for life. “She is amazing,” he says. “She is amazing because Starship was amazing.”
We really need your help to keep the Starship National Air Ambulance flying
Your generous support will help children like Jasmine get life-saving treatment and care when they need it. Our Starship National Air Ambulance service is relied on by critically ill children and their families from all over New Zealand. Each year more than $1.5 million is required to fund the vital service and your generous support will ensure the Starship National Air Ambulance can be available at a moment’s notice year round for every child in urgent need. Thank you for your generosity.