Brian Coker was about to go to lunch on Tuesday 22 February 2011 when an earthquake registering 6.3 strikes at 12.51pm in Christchurch. Mr Coker, a financial adviser with Perpetual relives the day from his bed at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton.
It had been a normal day. Earlier on I dropped my wife Helen off at the airport. She was going to Palmerston North to visit relatives.
Just before 1pm I was leaving my first floor office in Perpetual Group to go to lunch. I was on the landing about to go down the main stairs when the earthquake hit. I hung on to the balustrade, the ceiling tiles started falling around me. I was swept off my feet when a concrete wall fell on me.
I knew straight away I was pinned and there was no way I could get myself out.
I thought I was going to die. I was in two minds whether to txt Helen or not as I didn’t want to worry her. But I wanted to tell her I loved her and that I may not survive.
(Helen got a txt message at 1.03pm – she was in Palmerston North visiting relatives – Brian also txted his children and then turned his phone off to save battery power as the signal was intermittent)
The pain was excruciating – I had blood dripping from my head. There were a few after shocks, I actually moved some loose panels to give myself protection as panels, and concrete dust and bits and pieces fell.
I just wanted there to be a decent after shock to finish it.
I sort of thought that on the one hand if I lost consciousness it would just ease the pain but I presumed then that I would just die. I had to keep breathing so I did my labour deep breathing exercises. I had no water and the concrete dust was in my nose, in my mouth.
I don’t know when rescuers came but it was some hours later.
(Helen had rung Marton Police Station and patched through to national headquarters. She was able to tell police that her husband was in the Pyne Gould building on level one in the landing. She told them what he looked like and what he was wearing. She also said she had a txt from him).
One of the rescuers gave me a drink of water. They were very reassuring; they came and went and then went away for quite a time and came back with engineers. They kept reassuring me they would get me out. I could hear other people screaming in the building. There was nobody else on the landing.
I didn’t know they were going to amputate my legs but I should have known. They cut my trousers and they did that while I was still conscious. They had no choice. I don’t remember anything of the procedure. When the rescuers came at about 7pm they said they would get me out. They’d been in once before and given me some morphine.
I don’t remember the amputation because I was anaesthetised. I was properly and professionally anaesthetised. I owe my life to Helen for contacting the emergency services and my brother Malcolm who is a paramedic.
I’m grateful for the support of my family, friends and clients. I’d like to thank Perpetual Group because they have been extremely supportive and to the wider Pyne Gould corporation.
(Helen caught the ferry to the South Island and then drove to Christchurch arriving at 7am on Wednesday. Later on they said Brian would be going to Waikato Hospital and he went on a medical flight. Helen and her son caught a commercial flight out of Christchurch at 9pm to Auckland where her daughter picked her up and took them to Hamilton. They arrived at 1am. They did not get any sleep for 48 hours)
We’re a company that looks after families and staff are the first family.
I’d like to meet the doctors and rescuers at some time but I would like to thank them.
The care I’m getting at Waikato Hospital is brilliant and I know I am in the right place and getting the right treatment.
Doctors say I will be in hospital for several weeks. The stumps have to heal, there will be more operations and then I will have rehabilitation.
I’m concerned for my family, friends and clients still in Christchurch who are going through continuing aftershocks. I particularly feel for those who have lost loved ones and my heart goes out to them. I have colleagues who are injured and colleagues who are missing and my condolences go out to their families.
Life will never be the same for so many people including me. But what has not changed for me is my love for my family, friends and clients.
I was reasonably healthy before all this – pretty fit – so that will help me I’m sure.
(Helen and Brian have been married more than 25 years – he is from Oamaru and she is from Ashburton)
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