Wife's plea over Illawarra rescue chopper

Every time Deb Reilly hears the aeromedical helicopter fly over her Austinmer home she thinks about how lucky she is to still have her husband beside her.

"If it wasn't for the chopper he would have died, I'm sure of it," Mrs Reilly said yesterday.

"Every time it goes over I think some poor bastard is being rushed to a Sydney hospital.

MORE: Anger fuels fight to keep rescue chopper

"That night we needed it, it came back twice more to get other people," she said.

"We can't get rid of it."

Community leaders have vowed to fight to save the Albion Park-based service after an Ernst and Young report targeted the service among several across the state that could go in a shake-up to save millions of dollars.

"What would a bloody accountant company know about saving lives? It saved my husband's life. It should be about life instead of money," Mrs Reilly said.

The red and white chopper came to the rescue of Chris Reilly when he suffered a double aneurism on March 10, 2007 - a date his wife will never forget.

"He'd had headaches for a little while, but this particular day he looked really weird, he couldn't speak, he just collapsed.

"That's when I started to panic and I dialled triple-0.

"Three ambulances arrived 15 minutes later. After a couple of hours at hospital they decided he had to get to Sydney. There they put 16 coils in his brain."

Mr Reilly said he had suffered a few problems since the surgery - including memory and speech difficulties - but had no doubt he owed his life to the chopper.

"Even thinking about getting rid of it is disgusting," Mr Reilly said.

"I wouldn't be here without it. It's not a service you want to lose and sometimes you don't realise until you need it.

"When you do need it, it's fantastic. The guys on board are totally professional - they're unbelievable, they really take care of you.

The South Coast Labour Council has vowed to fight the government over any plans to reduce the 24-hour service based at the Illawarra.

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