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Zachariah's rush for oxygen

Being helped by a manual oxygen pump, premature baby Zachariah needed to get to Wellington Hospital fast.

After a month’s bed rest due to complications while pregnant, Elisha started to get severe back pains. She was going into early labour. Elisha was quickly admitted to Palmerston North Hospital where it was decided it would be too risky to fly her to Wellington, as her baby’s foot was already on its way out; she was in full labour. 

After an emergency c-section Zachariah was born 16 weeks earlier than expected, weighing just 800 grams. Dad Aaron remembers thinking how small he was,

“he was like a silicon mould; he could fit in my hand.”   

His new-born son was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where they did everything to stabilise him, however their NICU is not equipped for babies born at 24 weeks. They found that Zachariah needed more help with breathing than what they could provide; he needed specialist attention, fast.  

A few hours later, Aaron saw the Life Flight team, along with Wellington NICU nurses arrive to help Zachariah.   

“My wife was still in surgery and watching them work on Zachariah, I didn’t know what was going to happen. When I saw Life Flight come in with the Wellington NICU team it gave me a lot of hope and reassurance that he was going to get where he needed to be.”   

It took another 2 hours to make sure Zachariah was safe to fly. Mum Elisha highlights that “it took them this time to stabilize him, treat him, and get him intubated so he could be put on a ventilator, and ready to be transported. They were amazing [with] how much they could do”.  

The team needed to hurry him to Wellington so that he could receive the urgent medical attention he needed. Aaron was able to walk with the crew to the helicopter to say goodbye to his son.  

“I remember watching with my brother, early hours in the morning, (it was cold, wet, windy and dark) the helicopter taking off with our son... I had this crazy feeling of being so proud of the Life Flight team, and yet had a bunch of other emotions going on!”  

Baby Zachariah spent eight weeks in Wellington Hospital, after which he was flown back on our fixed wing Air Ambulance with mum, spending a further eight weeks in Palmerston North Hospital Neonatal Unit receiving treatment. He was then able to return to his family home, where his 8-year-old big sister eagerly awaited his return. “She’s like a mother hen. She’s been wanting a younger sibling her whole life.”  

Aaron said that the pilots and the crew checked in on him and were great at keeping his spirits up during this stressful ordeal.  

"They came to check in on me as a dad... I will be forever grateful to the Life Flight team.”  

For such a small baby, Zachariah was a fighter. “The list he had... he had brain damage, he even had a brain bleed and he recovered from that.” Now a happy and bubbly 12-month-old baby (eight corrected), Zachariah is finally off oxygen.  

“A cliché is that we say we never would expect we would need Life Flight, but then you realise we are all those people, and when you need this service... it is just so important that they are there. Keep supporting. Support as much as possible.” 


Click here to read about Zachariah's first birthday celebrations in the Manawatu Standard