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SAVING LIVES FOR 40 YEARS Featured
27 June 2018 Posted by 

SAVING LIVES FOR 40 YEARS

Rescue worker Travis is living the dream
TERRY COLLINS
A
S a boy, Travis West always dreamt of flying for a career. And now working as one of the dedicated NSW Ambulance & Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service pilots, the US-born airman is living the dream.

“Flying has always been my passion and helping people out is an added bonus,” Mr West, of Tumbi Umbi, said.
 
After completing training straight out of high school, Mr West worked for various helicopter rescue services in the States, including firefighting units.
 
“But 14 years ago I got married and I knew it was time for a change,” he said.
 
After moving to Australia with his Aussie wife seven years ago, Mr West worked with Careflight in Sydney before relocating to the Central Coast and joining the NSW Ambulance & Westpac Rescue Helicopter’s Belmont based team two years ago.
 
“I love the work,” he said. “You never know what you are going to face when you come in each day - it’s never the same thing twice.
 
“There is some difficult flying involved but that is part of the challenge of the job.”
 
For Mr West, his co-workers help make the job enjoyable.
 
“These crews make this a really good place to be,” he said.
 
The Service began in 1975 as a part-time voluntary summer beach patrol and in the ensuing years has grown to become a world-class aeromedical search and rescue operation.
 
Initiated by the Newcastle branch of Surf Life Saving Australia, the organisation soon formed a partnership with Westpac (then the Bank of NSW), paving the way for one of Australia’s longest and most successful community partnerships.
 
In 1980 the first intensive care paramedic from NSW Ambulance travelled on board, with a 24-hour day beginning the following year.
 
These days the Service flies four AgustaWestland 139 helicopters from its three bases at Belmont, Lismore and Tamworth.
 
Along with the pilots and aircrew, every pre-hospital response mission today leaves with a dedicated NSW Ambulance critical care helicopter paramedic and NSW Health doctor on board.
 
One of those helicopter paramedics is Jeremy Veness of North Avoca, who has been a paramedic for 15 years and with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service for the past four.
 
“After five years as a paramedic you can apply for further training, where you are instructed in such areas as clinical and aviation work, remote area work and special ops,” Mr 
Veness said.
 
“Then you are assigned to one of six bases in the state, with three of them being NSW Ambulance & Westpac Rescue Helicopter bases.
 
“This wasn’t always where I intended to be. I have worked as a lifeguard and as a teacher and been exposed to various avenues.
 
“It’s been a slow progression, but I love air-based work. It’s physically challenging but there is a great variety in the work.
 
“We cover everything from road crashes to people coming off horses or bikes to drownings.
 
“One job which sticks out in my memory was when a man decided to take his daughter on a Bear Grills type adventure and they got stuck half way down a cliff.
 
“We winched out his daughter and then stayed overnight with him on the cliff face. He was able to walk out unscathed the next day.”
 
Mr Veness said the work could take an emotional toll.
 
“When there are kids involved especially, it can be very emotive,” he said.
 
“But after every mission we debrief as a crew and look at what could have been done differently or better.
 
“There is a network of support we can count on if we’re having difficulties.”
 
How to help fund the missions
 
 
For more than 40 years, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service has been helping to save lives on the Central Coast.
 
Last year alone, 449 people were assisted during the months of June, July and August and with another busy winter expected, CEO Richard Jones is calling for the community’s support as the financial year draws to a close.
 
“Traditionally this is a busy time of year for the service; last June we were called to 132 missions across our three bases in Newcastle, Tamworth and Lismore,” Mr Jones said.
 
“That is an average of four missions per day.”
 
Missions included motor vehicle, motorbike and quad bike accidents, search and rescues, urgent inter-hospital transfers, farming accidents and neonatal transfers.
 
 
Mr Jones urged residents to contribute to the service’s End of Financial Year Appeal before it closes on June 30.
 
“Our End of Financial Year Appeal is an important part of our annual fundraising program. Small or large, every amount donated will stay locally and will help to ensure that the Rescue Helicopter can continue to fly 24-7 as a free service,” he said.
 
By the end of the year the Service is expected to assist close to 2000 people, none of whom will have to pay to use the vital service.

 



editor

Michael Walls
Publisher
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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