Shane Tarawa: Back from the brink

Shane Tarawa: Back from the brink

On March 2 Caribe Tarawa's beloved father was going to go. After a month in Newcastle Hospital his life support was being turned off. The whanau came from throughout New Zealand and Australia to say their goodbyes. But what happened next astonished everyone, not least the man himself.

Shane Tarawa, or Papa as he is called, had suffered a heart attack and multi-organ failure, and on top of that an infection and pneumonia.

"We took him outside, we sung him some songs, we gave him a haka, and then we enjoyed what may be the last time with him outside," says Caribe. "They wheeled him back to the ICU to eventually face the inevitable."

The story had its beginnings on January 26. Shane and his wife, Kath, were visiting their son and mokopuna along with Shane's sisters, all based in Newcastle, Australia. It was during a big whanau picnic that it turned to near tragedy when Shane had a heart attack.

At Newcastle Hospital, Shane went straight into heart surgery.

The whanau were doing around-the-clock shifts at the hospital, with Kath staying with him nightly. But in reality, they'd run out of options.

It was about three weeks in when Caribe started looking outside mainstream medical practices and came across a story from 2006 – the miraculous survival story of Kiwi farmer Allan Smith.

Mr Smith had the swine flu pneumonia and was in Auckland Hospital's Intensive Care Unit after weeks on life support. Doctors were unanimous that there was no way he could survive and told the family his life support would be turned off.

The Smith family fought hard, involved lawyers and demanded he be given high-dose intravenous vitamin C. His recovery was remarkable.

So Mr Smith put Shane's family in touch with Professor Ian Brighthope, a specialist in nutritional medicine based in Melbourne with years of experience using high-dose vitamin C.

So for more than a week high doses of vitamin C were administered.

For the next few weeks the family enjoyed what they thought was a miracle. While Shane was far from stable and his heart was still incredibly weak, he was also far from dead.

But Shane's remarkable story was to take one final turn. One month after he survived having his life support turned off, Shane suffered another heart attack.

Watch the video for the full 3D report.