Real Life

‘Shortland St saved my life’

They’ve been watching Shortland Street since they were in nappies, but Tauranga teens Kaleb Barnett and Rain Rimaha never thought their favourite TV show would save one of their lives.

Rain (15) used skills he’d picked up from the Kiwi soap to keep Kaleb alive after he was hit and thrown into the air by a car on a busy street in June. “I’d made it to the other side, but I turned around and Kaleb was on the ground,” recalls Rain.

Kaleb (15) had hit the windscreen with the back of his head, and was tossed 4m behind the car. Unconscious, bleeding and frothing at the mouth, Kaleb lay in the middle of the road as Rain tried to stop cars driving into him. He put Kaleb into the recovery position, a skill he says he learned from the long-running Kiwi soap.

“Originally, I tried lifting him up to get him off the road because there were cars everywhere, but he started having a seizure, so I put him down and used his phone to call 111,” says Rain. “I felt like I was actually in Shortland Street.”

“I don’t remember anything,” says Kaleb, who suffered serious head injuries in the accident. “One minute I was crossing the road, and the next I was waking up in hospital.”

Kaleb had a ball on the set of Shortland Street.

Kaleb’s mum, Keesha Barnett, was in Napier on a work trip when she heard the news and drove like a “bat out of hell” back to Tauranga to be with her son. “Kaleb’s my little me – we’re really close. I didn’t know how bad things were. I just lost it, I collapsed on the floor in the information centre I was standing in,” she says.

“I think Kaleb’s dad was more affected than me though. Kaleb was fighting the doctors because he didn’t know what had happened, so [his dad] was trying to calm him down, and he just looked straight through him with no recognition. It was scary.”

Rain’s mum, Carol, who was at the hospital with Kaleb, says it was one of the most terrifying times of her life. “It was really scary because the doctors were saying there were signs of brain injuries.” After 24 hours, Kaleb was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit, and walked out of hospital three days later.

Kaleb suffered a small number of short-term issues resulting from his head injury – for a few days, he was writing words backwards and drawing pictures upside down, which he describes as “freaky”. Despite the shock of the accident, Keesha says she wasn’t overly surprised it happened to her son – Kaleb is potentially New Zealand’s most accident-prone teenager.

“Being on the set is amazing,” says Kaleb.

“He puts me through hell,” she smiles. “He burnt our house down when he was three, he’s taken the whole top of his toe off, whacked his head open and he’s broken every bone in his wrist. Honestly!”

After hearing of Kaleb and Rain’s story, the production team at Shortland Street were keen to give the pair a treat. As well as visiting the show’s set in Auckland with their mums, the boys also scored themselves walk-on parts on the soap.

When the Weekly stopped by, the boys were checking out some of Shortland Street’s best-loved locations, as well as meeting some of their favourite characters – including the Cooper family.

“Being on the set is amazing,” grins Kaleb. “It’s really buzzy seeing how the sets all work together – Rain and I have grown up watching Shortland Street because our mums love it.”

Three months after the accident, both Carol and Keesha say that if Rain hadn’t been with Kaleb, he might not be alive today. “I’m just so proud of him,” says Carol.

Kaleb and Rain on set with actresses Amelia Reid (left), Pearl McGlashan and Jacquie Nairn.

“He saved my son’s life, without a doubt. When stuff like this happens, you either go into flight mode or fight mode, and luckily for Kaleb, Rain went into fight mode,” Keesha says. “Exactly,” adds Carol. “It’s cool someone his age stopped and thought about what needed to be done. You don’t think 14- and 15-year-old boys pay attention, but they really do!”

The boys’ friendship is stronger after their ordeal too, with Kaleb saying he owes Rain a lot of pies and shouts to the movies. “Everyone’s said that Kaleb will be owing Rain for a long time,” laughs Keesha. “But this whole situation, it’s just given me courage. Kaleb’s given me courage. I’ll never underestimate him ever again.”

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