Pay­ing it for­ward de­spite per­sonal loss

Central Leader - - NEWS - By ELE­SHA ED­MONDS

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 con- tin­ued to 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.

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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.

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