Supporting Everyday Heroes

  • 3 min read

The New Zealand Flying Doctors Trust helped to save Rita McCormack's life when she was a baby, and Rita has drawn a special picture of them. Her artwork has been transformed into a t-shirt that's raising funds for the NZFDT, with the help of Untouched World.

Supporting Everyday Heroes

Five-year old Rita McCormack has drawn a special picture of the flying doctor planes that helped save her life as a baby. Now her drawing is depicted on a fundraising t-shirt for the New Zealand Flying Doctor Trust (NZFDT), produced by Untouched World.

Before she was born, Rita’s parents, Belinda and Lindon, knew she had a heart condition and would need neonatal cardiac care at Auckland’s Starship Hospital.

She was treated by the team at Starship Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and when well enough, the Flying Doctor team transferred the family back home, taking Rita to Christchurch Hospital for further monitoring.

Lindon remembers the trip well. “It seemed rather overwhelming with wee baby Rita in the incubator, but the crew were so reassuring and cared for us as a family, every step of the way,”

Despite the early challenges, Rita is now healthy and loving school. Through the Trust, she has bonded with another patient, nine-year old Grace Byrne who also defied the odds after a major car accident. Together, they are helping support the t-shirt fundraiser launched this month.

The Byrne family’s car crashed off the road at 100kmph and rolled six times across a paddock in Marlborough. Dad, Steven, had suffered a sudden seizure behind the wheel. Grace was in a critical condition with a fractured skull, and she needed to be airlifted to Wellington, and then on to Starship Hospital in Auckland. Grace’s parents, Steven and Dianne, and brother Evan all needed urgent treatment too, and were flown to different hospitals around the country for the care they needed.

“It was the New Zealand Flying Doctor service that brought our family back together again, when they flew Grace home,” Steven says. “Grace was so well looked after on her flight back... It meant so much to come back together as a family after what we’d been through.”

“We’ve only got one children’s hospital in New Zealand, making the Flying Doctors a big necessity. And it’s not easy to get over the Cook Strait by ambulance. The only way is by air. The service means a lot to a lot of people,” he says.

The NZFD helps thousands of others like Rita and Grace every year to receive vital care in times of need. Planes are equipped with highly trained medical staff and specialist equipment to provide patients with a seamless level of care from bed to bed. The service operates 24/7 transferring critical care burn victims, spinal injury patients, neonatal transfers, trauma victims, surgery transfers, organ delivery, and blood or equipment supplies.

Before she became the high-profile founder of Untouched World, Peri Drysdale was a nurse and has always had an interest in supporting patient care. To support our most vulnerable, Untouched World knits and donates hundreds of merino wool beanies to Christchurch Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the oncology ward and other neonatal units.

“When I was invited along to a New Zealand Flying Doctor Trust open day, I realised what a wonderful service it was and asked, ‘How can we help you?’ From there, we have pledged to work together to lift the profile of the service and assist with fundraising initiatives like this t-shirt collaboration,” Peri says.

The work the NZFD does is not possible without donations. With a decrease in funding, and increased demand for their service, these everyday heroes need our help. To support their incredible work, with every tee sold, $10 will be donated to the NZ Flying Doctor’s service, helping them to continue doing what they do best – saving lives.

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