Chopper late – baby born high in the sky


Another Wakatipu mum is slamming the resort’s inadequate maternity services after horrific ordeals in birthing her two sons.

Arrowtown’s Jo Cargill had to wait several hours for a helicopter before each birth of Thomas, 19 months, and Henry, five months.

She ended up having Henry in the chopper en route to Invercargill.

Cargill contacted Mountain Scene after last week’s story on Queenstown mum Natasha Murray, who lost first baby Sinead in 2006 because of helicopter delays at Frankton’s Lakes District Hospital.

Queenstown maternity care is just one hospital service under the spotlight due to revelations LDH is significantly under-funded by Southland District Health Board – with further cost-cutting imminent at LDH.

Cargill had complications with both births – her labours came on really quickly but “nothing would happen”.
In Thomas’s case, he “got stuck” and had to be delivered by emergency C-section at Southland Hospital in December 2007.

“It took [LDH staff] two hours to realise that nothing was going to happen … so I had to wait five hours for the helicopter to arrive. It was unbelievable.”

Then in March this year, a day before she and husband Jamie were to move to Dunedin to avoid birthing dramas with their second child, she went into labour with Henry six weeks early.

Despite telling LDH staff she’d been advised to have another C-section for Henry’s birth, Cargill had to wait four hours for a chopper.

She was also put into the helicopter the “wrong way” – later admitted by medical officials – and when she gave birth to Henry in the sky above Winton, her midwife didn’t even know she’d delivered.

“I had to alert her to the fact that I’d given birth.

“I was absolutely terrified because I’d never been through anything like this before.”

Blankets and oxygen stored under Cargill’s stretcher in the helicopter couldn’t be reached so she and her new-born “froze” – baby Henry wasn’t breathing for the rest of the journey, she claims.

“He’s OK [now] – he’s a little fighter.”

Cargill, who says she still hasn’t recovered emotionally, stresses local midwives “do a good job with what they’ve got … but they don’t have anything”.

“I don’t know why you’d want to be a midwife working in these conditions. It’s like a third-world hospital but we’re not a third-world country – so why?”