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Recipe of thanks for paramedics

Don and Maureen Helman. Photo: Matt Brown.

A man who collapsed at home has turned to a 58-year-old wedding gift in a bid to say thanks to the paramedics who rescued him.

Don Helman collapsed at his Blenheim home and a St John ambulance crew rushed him to Wairau Hospital.

The retired pharmacist has since made more than 2500 jars of marmalade as a way of raising funds for the St John’s team who came to his aid.

And to carry out this feat of kindness, he used a recipe book he and wife Maureen were given for their wedding more than five decades earlier.

Don says he told St John volunteers at their secondhand store in Springlands, “I could make you a jar or two.”

Ten pounds of fruit and eleven pounds of sugar goes into a batch of Don's famous marmalade. Photo: Matt Brown.
Ten pounds of fruit and eleven pounds of sugar goes into a batch of Don’s famous marmalade. Photo: Matt Brown.

“A particular morning, I walked across the kitchen and hit the floor,” he says.

“I said, send for an ambulance. They were here very quickly.”

A paramedic wired Don up to an electrocardiograph during the short ambulance trip.

“They put me on an ECG monitor, and on the way, they got something.

“The paramedic in the ambulance ran into the hospital and spoke with the house surgeon.

“When she came back, she said we think you need a pacemaker – we’re arranging for you to go to Nelson.”

Neither Don nor Maureen know who the “fantastic” paramedic was.

“She was just amazing,” Maureen says.

“She knew what was wrong with him more or less straight away.”

“They’re always there for an emergency,” Don says.

Ten pounds of fruit and eleven pounds of sugar goes into a batch – that makes about 27 jars.

Affectionately known as ‘the man’s marmalade’, the tasty spread is a favourite at the St John store.

Each batch takes around six hours to make and Don makes up to two batches a week.

He likes to have a supply ready to go when the shop sells out.

He uses lemons and oranges donated from neighbours’ trees.

“Our biggest bugbear is that the jars that we get – it’s lovely that we get the jars – but the labels are still on them.

“Before we can even start, we have to soak them and then scrape the labels off them.

That’s one thing we wish we didn’t have to do.”

The fruit is boiled first in its juice until the rind goes soft then adds the sugar and brings it up to the boil.

“It takes about an hour after that. It’s quite a long process – it takes about six hours, from start to finish.

“I had no idea how much marmalade people want, and it just grew really,” Don says.

The batch is then set aside in a back room overnight to set.

Maureen helps slice up the peel and with the testing process.

“Testing it. It’s bubble, bubble, bubble like a witch’s cauldron,” she says.

Don says he’s happy to be able to help.

“The marmalade is just repayment for what was done.”

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