Max on the mend after brush with death

A holiday in Golden Bay turned into a near tragedy when little Max Martin ran out of a cafe, across the footpath, between two parked cars and straight out onto the road.

He had spotted his dad, Steve, across the road putting his baby sister, Maisie, in her car seat. Mum Sarah was in the Takaka cafe with 2-year-old Jessie; Max had moved too fast for her to catch him.

The driver of the car that hit him had no warning, but the scene was every parent's nightmare.

The impact with the corner of the car's bumper threw Max back with such force that his skull shattered when he hit the road.

His father described the injury as an "extensive, multiple non-displaced skull fracture", meaning there were multiple cracks in the 3-year-old's head, but luckily all the pieces remained in place.

The Martins were thankful that among those first on the scene were a Christchurch anaesthetist and a GP who administered critical first aid.

Max was rushed to the local community hospital then flown by the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter straight to Wellington Hospital's intensive care unit where the neurosurgeon prepared the Martins for the worst.

"He looked like he had been in a boxing ring," Steve Martin said.

Six weeks after the April 13 accident, Max is walking about with little visible signs of what he had been through.

He visited the rescue helicopter base at the Nelson Airport this week and immediately recognised the chopper.

"That's my rescue helicopter," he said pointing to the machine which had helped save his life.

Steve Martin said the accident happened on the first day of the family's holiday. They had booked a bach in Pakawau and had gone into Takaka and stopped in at the cafe.

In hindsight, there were a few things he would have done differently. He has spoken publicly in the hope it might serve as a warning to others parents and as a show of support for the rescue helicopter's May Awareness Month.

Martin, the operations manager at a Nelson firm that designs and manufactures underwater monitoring and research equipment, said he would never again park the car on the opposite side of a road to where they were because he believed that was a factor in Max's decision to run onto the road.

He said the fact he and his wife were attending to their other children and were in different locations at that moment were further lessons.

"What I've noticed since is that a lot of people have come forward with their own similar stories, and not all of them are great.

"When children run onto the road it's not that they're being naughty - they're often excited and running towards something they have seen."

Martin said he heard the crunch of the car when it hit his son, and the obvious signs of a brain injury. He said the family was grateful for everyone's help on the day, and in the days following.

"Everyone there was just fantastic. The staff from the cafe were great and helped out with blankets. The police on the scene were a big help and came back to help me pack after Sarah had gone in the helicopter with Max."

Martin said their child's recovery had been "unbelievable". The only reminder was that Max got tired a lot quicker these days.

The Nelson Mail