Students “Giving Back” to Rescue Choppers, Blood Donations

Students “Giving Back” to Rescue Choppers, Blood Donations

“A bloody good cause.”

Following a gnarly Mt Hutt crash, two Otago Uni students recently partnered with the New Zealand Blood Service (NZ Blood) and the Canterbury Westpac Rescue Helicopter to take blood and money from students. For a good cause, of course. 

Last year, Isaac suffered a compound fracture to his leg, leaving his foot attached by just his calf muscle. Ouch. Isaac was picked up by the Canterbury Westpac Rescue Helicopter and taken straight to Christchurch Hospital, where he had multiple surgeries and lost 50 units of blood in the process. One unit of blood, by the way, is roughly a pint. That’s a lot of blood.

“It’s a miracle he didn’t lose his leg,” said his friend Maddy. After staying at home in  Kirikiriroa/Hamilton for a bit as he recovered, Isaac returned to the mean streets of Ōtepoti this year. Something about being in bed for seven weeks gave Isaac the time to think, and he eventually decided he “had to do something to give back.” According to him: “A lot of special people throughout the day saved my life… [and I feel a] moral obligation to repay some of the things given to me.”

To give back, Isaac launched a “hybrid” campaign: a “Team Red Challenge” with NZ Blood, encouraging people to give blood, while also starting a Givealittle for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter (formally, the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust). “We wanted it to be as inclusive as possible,” said Maddy, and this meant accommodating all types. Those with more blood than money can donate their red stuff to the cause, while the queasier among us can instead donate to the chopper.

Isaac said he is “nothing but happy” with the success of the campaign, with donations of blood and cash arriving from all over the motu. As of writing, the “Isaac West Team Red Challenge” has amassed 90 blood donations, and another 89 plasma donations. This means a pretty respectable 84L of blood and plasma, or just under 255 Speights bottles full of the good stuff. Braham Stoker would be proud. Meanwhile the Givealittle page has raised $3,675 – for reference, every mission flown by the chopper costs the Trust around $5k, so they’re most of the way there. 

The success of the campaign can be largely attributed to social media. “We've made quite a community where when people donate they send in their photos,” said Maddy. She was hopeful that the campaign would start the conversation amongst students about the importance of donating blood. “Without people going out of their way in their own time and donating, [Isaac] probably wouldn't have survived,” said Maddy. All of NZ hospitals’ blood supplies come from the ~4% of the population who regularly, voluntarily donate blood, said Maddy. According to her, a reason for the low numbers could be that “it's not one of those things that is ever a priority until it's personal.”

As it happens, donating blood is dead easy. “You just need to take an hour out of your day, every three months,” said Maddy. If you missed out on NZ Blood’s semi-regular campus blood drives, you can book an appointment at the Dunedin Donor Centre (on Princes Street opposite Briscoes), or flick a koha over to the rescue helicopter. You can also learn more and stay updated on Isaac’s campaign on Instagram ( 

This article first appeared in Issue 24, 2022.
Posted 1:36pm Saturday 24th September 2022 by Zak Rudin.