Paying it forward for Luke
TRAGEDY and loss hasn’t stopped Karyn Swallow from giving back.
The long-serving volunteer for the Auckland Westpac rescue helicopter lost her son Luke, 18, to spinal cancer seven years ago.
Swallow was living in Port Waikato and the helicopter transferred Luke to Starship Hospital many times.
Luke died three months after his diagnosis.
It was a difficult time for Swallow – her husband of 23 years left her around the same time.
‘‘He couldn’t cope with his son dying so it was just me and the three girls left,’’ Swallow says.
‘‘It was a huge transition to suddenly lose the two males in our family.’’
Despite the loss Swallow, who now lives in Eden Terrace, was determined to stay positive for her three daughters. ‘‘I’ve found your attitude can be, you either get on and function or you just sit down and cry, and we’re not the type who sit down and cry.’’
Even when one of her daughters was diagnosed with cancer, Swallow continued to look for the positives.
Her 20-year-old daughter is now in remission.
‘‘I always think about where I am today and how I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the tragedy and heartbreak to get here,’’ she says.
‘‘No matter the loss and the tragedy in my life, I’m still grateful.’’
Swallow wants to use her experiences to help others which is why she decided to volunteer at the Westpac rescue helicopter base in central Auckland.
‘‘I like that I can use my skills that I have learned to help them and do something that is personal to myself and also helps other people.’’
Swallow helps out most weekends and has only missed one fundraising event since she started volunteering nearly two years ago.
The De’Longhi sales and marketing co-ordinator takes time off from her day job to help the helicopter trust fundraise at events such as the Easter Show and Fieldays.
Swallow says being a volunteer means helping out any way that you can.
‘‘One time you could be lugging hay bales around, the next minute you’re holding a big snapper up for auction to raise funds, and the next thing you’re escorting people to a vineyard for cocktails,’’ she says.
‘‘It’s from one extreme to another but I just do it.’’
Karyn Swallow volunteers most weekends for the Auckland Westpac rescue helicopter.