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On a mission to thank lifesavers

From left: Wellington Free Ambulance’s Gary McMillen and Jessica Vanderburg, Monique Harvey, Kevin Harvey, and his wife Michelle Harvey. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED

Carterton man’s mission to thank lifesavers
Unconscious, lungs collapsed, a Carterton man went into cardiac arrest as he was about to be helicoptered to hospital. After a ‘miracle’ survival, it’s been a long road to recovery, writes CAL ROBERTS.

One Friday morning in October last year, Bernadine Harvey was at her Carterton home when she was called out of her bedroom by her father, Kevin.

She thought he just wanted a cup of coffee, but when she came to the living room she found her dad with the phone in his hand, struggling to breathe.

“He was turning purple,” the 13-year-old said.

Bernadine spoke with the 111 operator on the other end of the line and together helped save her father’s life.

But the list of Kevin’s saviours is longer than just two people, and for the past nine months he has made it his mission to personally thank each person responsible for saving him.

On the morning he very nearly died, Kevin fell unconscious not long after handing the phone to his daughter.

He had pneumonia and was in respiratory arrest.

Fortunately, a Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic crew were just around the corner.

Intensive care paramedic Jessica Vanderburg and emergency medical technician Cheryl Watson were first on the scene.

Kevin’s wife, Michelle Harvey, was relieved when she saw them arrive – Vanderburg had treated Kevin before.

“I stepped back and let the team do what they needed to do.”

Kevin is a volunteer support officer for Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

A Carterton fire crew turned up to the house with a second paramedic crew to find their friend and colleague on the floor.

“It made it very hard for them,” Kevin said.

Kevin needed to be airlifted to Wellington Hospital for further treatment but on the way to the pickup at Carrington Park he went into cardiac arrest.

The whole team worked on Kevin for a further 45 minutes before he was stable enough to travel.

From there, it only took 20 minutes to reach Wellington Hospital.

Both his lungs had collapsed, and Kevin was placed in an induced coma for a week.

When he woke up, he had lost the ability to speak.

“When I did speak after a few days, I asked the nurse, ‘Why are all those nurses smiling in the window?’

“She said, ‘Because you’re our miracle’.”

Kevin said he lost all memory of the days leading up to his emergency.

“My family are the ones who suffer the trauma post event – they went through it all.”

Kevin said he was grateful to still be around for his daughters – Bernadine, Stephanie and Monique.

“But if Wellington Free weren’t there, I wouldn’t be here.”

Paramedic Vanderburg said often she did not get the chance to see patients after she had helped them.

“We really appreciate hearing from patients as we don’t often see them after we treat them and transport them to hospital.”

Kevin had managed to personally thank most of the people who had a hand in his survival and recovery – including the operator who spoke with his daughter Bernadine – and was hoping to catch up with the helicopter crew soon.

These days, Kevin says he’s feeling good.

“Better than I ever felt, and I just want to say thank you in the biggest way.”

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