Real Life

TikTok star’s helicopter rescue: ‘We nearly lost our daughter’

Social media star Louis Davis says his family could have paid he ultimate price
Tiktok star Louis with daughter KānoaPictures: Jess Burges

He’s a Kiwi TikTok sensation, with a collective social media following of over two million people

But behind the funny, heartfelt videos about fatherhood that Louis Davis produces for fans all over the world, the 30-year-old has struggled with one of the most traumatic experiences a parent could ever go through.

In March last year, Louis and his wife Ashleigh, who live in the Far North, delivered their second daughter Kānoa by home birth.

“We had our first daughter Anakiwa in hospital. But having moved back to our home village in Northland, this time around we felt safe and comfortable enough to have a home birth,” he says.

Baby Kānoa getting all the feels from her sister and dad.

Louis describes the birth itself as “magical”. But a few hours after Kānoa was born, she began vomiting and was rushed to Whangārei Hospital.

“We were told Kānoa needed to be helicoptered to Starship Hospital in Auckland. We were freaking out because we couldn’t believe how quickly her condition had deteriorated. The whole experience was traumatising.”

Doctors discovered Kānoa had an issue with her intestines. She underwent a lifesaving operation that took a team of surgeons several hours.

Despite that rocky start, today Kānoa is a happy, healthy toddler who often features in her famous father’s videos. But Louis will never forget how close he and Ashleigh, his childhood sweetheart and fellow content creator, came to losing their adored daughter, Kānoa.

“It’s the worst thing a parent can go through, but thanks to the amazing medical staff, we made it to the other side,” says Louis. “We hear so much about how bad New Zealand’s health system is, but we only came across incredible people. Everyone, from the doctors to the nurse who helped get our car out of the carpark when our parking was running out, made an awful situation better.”

Louis saves particular praise for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter team who whisked Kānoa to hospital.

Louis has turned wife Ashleigh, plus girls Kānoa and Anakiwa, into TikTok stars too!

“If you live in the regions like we do, then you rely on the rescue choppers to get you to hospital in an emergency,” he tells. “Without them, we would have had to drive Kānoa four hours to Auckland. Who knows how that might have ended? Without the chopper service, families like mine could pay the ultimate price.”

It’s why Louis is so keen to share his story for this year’s annual Westpac Chopper Appeal.

“The choppers are an emergency service that can literally be saved with money. I’m happy to do my bit by sharing my story for this year’s appeal,” he asserts. “I’ve got two million followers in a country of five million, so I’ve got a significant opportunity to get people behind this service because you don’t know how important it is until it’s saved your life or the life of a loved one.”

Growing up, Louis didn’t imagine he’d make his living from social media. But he always knew he wanted to be a storyteller. After finishing high school in Whangārei, Louis completed a marketing degree at the University of Waikato. Here, he started making videos as part of his coursework. That interest grew and when he moved to Wellington to manage student accommodation at Massey University, his hobby followed him.

“It was just me putting my everyday life out there,” he explains. “But I kept getting more followers and eventually it turned into a full-time job.”

Today Louis posts around three or four videos a day, mainly sharing content about fatherhood and whānau.

“The thing I’m most passionate about is showing people that men who look like me don’t have to be warriors. Or do they have to be aggressive like Jake the Muss,” says Louis, who is of Ngāpuhi descent. “There are so many negative stories in the media about Māori men. I want to challenge that stereotype and show that we can be present, loving fathers who enjoy spending time with our kids and having fun with them.”

Louis is obviously doing something right – his videos receive 200 million views a month, from all over the world.

“It’s amazing how much a video of me diving for kina or playing with my kids can resonate with someone sitting behind a desk in London!”

He regularly receives around 10-15,000 comments a day, many from people who connect with his positive messages about fatherhood.

“So many people share their own stories of being fatherless, having a strained relationship with their parents or trying to heal that kind of pain,” tells Louis. “They tell me that watching me interact with my kids means something to them. It gives them hope for their own future, which is amazing.

“If I can help normalise Māori men having great relationships with their kids, then yes, I might do myself out a job. But it means I’m doing something right!”

May is Westpac Chopper Appeal Month. To donate, visit chopperappeal.co.nz.

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