Janet Barker is not a name most of us will recognise. Yet for many, Janet may well be one of the most influential people we have ever met.
Janet is one of Northland's most experienced nurses, bringing more than 30 years to the profession, and playing a vital role in the Northland Emergency Service Trust (Nest).
Janet's work with the helicopter service has seen her touch the lives of a large number of Northlanders, having been on board to provide emergency medical care on more than 1000 Nest flights to date.
As one of the driving forces behind the foundation of Nest in 1988, Janet recalls its inception and the early days of emergency medical services in the helicopters.
"Before 1988, emergency response was a completely different proposition altogether. Ambulances and small aeroplanes were used to transport patients, [but due to] the diverse terrain and poor roads in some areas it could take up to three hours to transport patients to the nearest hospital," she says.
"It just wasn't a viable option for extremely sick patients and we knew something had to change."
A charge nurse at Whangarei Hospital's ICU at the time, Janet recognised the need for an emergency helicopter service and was a key figure in driving for the foundation of Nest.
"Playing a part in the first years of the Nest helicopter service is, in my mind, among the most important things I have done in my career," Janet says.
"The emergency response that Nest provides is a vital service for the people of Northland.
"And as the service continues to evolve with bigger, faster helicopters and more advanced technology, the more effective we can be in providing safer transfers for all of our patients."
Janet remembers how little space the earlier helicopter models had.
"We're lucky now to be working in the double cabin Sikorsky helicopters, which give us plenty of room to move."
Since Nest's inception, one in 19 Northlanders has been flown by the service, and one in six estimated to have been directly affected by a rescue.
The 2012 Electricity Rescue Helicopter Appeal is now on, with Northpower and Top Energy again matching public donations up to $150,000.
Those who donate $5 or more can be in to win one of 30 rides in an Electricity Rescue Helicopter.
- © Fairfax NZ News