Life Flight by name, life flight by nature

05:08, May 08 2014
Amy McNamara
HUGE RELIEF: Amy McNamara, pictured with daughter Sophie Grace Norton, 4 months, was flown to Wellington for specialist medical treatment when Sophie was born nine weeks premature.

Life Flight's Westpac Rescue Helicopter saved the life of a young Marlborough girl before she was even born.

Amy McNamara, 24, went into labour at 30 weeks on December 18 and was told the specialist services needed to save her baby girl were not available in the top of the South Island.

She said everything happened so fast when doctors realised she was in labour and within an hour she was on board the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to Wellington Hospital.

"I never thought that I would have a need for the Life Flight helicopter's services. They arrived with a specialist team from Wellington and were so friendly and efficient and made me feel at ease - which is amazing because I was halfway through labour."

The flight to Wellington only took 15 minutes and her daughter, Sophie Grace Norton, was born soon after, weighing only 1.5 kilograms.

Arrangements were made for flights for her partner to Wellington and he was by her side within an hour.


Mum and daughter spent almost three weeks at Wellington Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit before they were flown back by Life Flight to Wairau Hospital.

"The return trip was again amazing - Sophie travelled in a giant portable incubator with every imaginable device needed to keep her alive. There were four different pumps just to monitor her breathing, heart rate and blood pressure," McNamara said.

Nine weeks premature, Sophie had lost almost 300 grams since birth, and weighed only 1.2kg by the time they flew back to Marlborough.

McNamara can't imagine what they would have done if the service had not been available to them.

"The long drive to Christchurch in an ambulance would have been impossible for both of us. It's thanks to them that she is alive and healthy today. I hope telling our story will help others realise how important it is that we all support the fundraising for the rescue helicopters," she said.

The annual Westpac Chopper Appeal runs during May. As a charity, Life Flight provides funding for the rescue helicopter and air ambulance services in Marlborough.

In the past year they have flown 144 urgent missions in Marlborough and more than 6000 since they started in the region in 1982.

Life Flight needed to raise $2500 for each person it helped and is dependent on donations.