It was a New Years Eve camping trip for Machlan ‘Mac’ Slade’s family and friends on the outskirts of Port Macquarie, not far from their home at Wauchope. Mac had risen early and worked with mates constructing jumps for their BMX bikes and the morning was filled with laughter and thrills.
After completing two jumps, Mac turned to ride back when he fell, landing heavily on his stomach on the upturned handlebar of his bike. Mac initially felt winded but with the enthusiasm of a nine year old, he shrugged off the fall to his mates and continued riding, before spending the afternoon by the water fishing.
Around 5pm however he mentioned to Mum Lauren that he had ‘bit of a pain in his belly’. After an active day, Lauren suggested a drink and bit of a rest but 10 minutes later Mac was pale and started vomiting. He turned white and was in agonising pain, so his parents drove Mac to Port Macquarie Hospital, where an urgent CT scan revealed an internal bleed.
However the hospital couldn’t do anything there for Mac, as he needed specialist surgery and his parents were informed that he would be airlifted to Westmead Childrens Hospital by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
Lauren sensed the seriousness of the situation but expressed the peace of mind that she felt with the arrival of the Helicopter Critical Care Medical Team.
“Jumping in the helicopter and knowing he was hooked up to their equipment, under their control, it was like, OK we’re fine,” Lauren said.
For Mac, it was an eye opener.
“I had the big headphones on and remember looking out the window at all the blades going faster and faster,” he said.
On arrival at Westmead ICU, the Interventional Radiologist did further tests and after an ultrasound, called Mac’s parents aside advising he needed immediate surgery to try and locate and then stop the bleed but surgery was unsuccessful, as it was still an active bleed and they couldn’t locate the leaky artery that was the source.
By some stroke of luck however the bleed had slowed overnight and eventually stopped on its own. Once the bleed stopped however it began to clot, which in turn blocked his duodenum completely because of its position, requiring further urgent surgery.
Mac spent 11 days in Westmead, requiring a food tube to be inserted, supplying his only source of nutrition for five weeks and two further procedures before he could eventually leave to return home.
“Mac has been a trooper the whole way,” Lauren said. “The next step is just ensuring that the hematoma is gone but he is slowly getting back to normal, which includes wanting to get back onto his BMX and motorbike and continuing riding with his mates.”
“The Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew were fantastic, I cannot thank them enough, just for getting our son to a safe place. How our story would have panned out without the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, I don’t know where we would have ended up, they were amazing.”
And the final word on his rescue goes to Mac, who thanked the crew for not only his own wellbeing but thoughtfully, for that of Mum too.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to all the people on the helicopter for making me calm and being kind and nice to me. I was worried going onto the helicopter but they were saying I’d be OK.”
“And they also made Mum very calm,” Mac concluded.