Mission is one-in-6000
JOHN ‘SHIPPA’ HOYE wouldn’t wish on anyone the pain he felt just after morning tea on November 19.
“I had been working with a builder at the Jiggi Public School,” the Goonellabah resident said.
“Suddenly I just felt this crushing feeling on my chest.
“I couldn’t breathe.
“I was pouring with perspiration. It was terrible.
“I said to the guy with me, ‘I don’t feel real flash, you’d better get me to a hospital’.
“So he drove me to Lismore Base where doctors worked on me for a while.”
But Mr Hoye, 55, had suffered a serious heart attack and needed urgent medical attention at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.
The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was called to take him there, and it turned out to be their 6000th mission.
“I went back to see them last week and they told me I was their 6000th job,” Mr Hoye said.
“It’s pretty amazing. They do such a good job but they never really get the praise they deserve.”
Helping out on the 6000th mission was new pilot Tom Hulse, who was on his first mission.
“I wanted to become part of something more meaningful,” he said at the time.
“For quite a while now I had been thinking about making the move into emergency services.
“It’s an area where you can actually help make a difference in people’s lives.”
Even before he needed the helicopter, Mr Hoye was well aware of the crew’s importance in the local community.
And, as secretary of the Northern NSW Harley Owners Group, he has even helped to raise money for the local charity.
When he called in to see the flight crew last week he also presented them with a $1000 donation from the group’s recent poker run.
“I didn’t think I would ever need to use the helicopter myself,” he said.
“But it really hits home when one of your own gets hurt.
“As a motorcycle group, we know that the helicopter is a valuable service to this community.”
Mr Hoye is recovering well after his heart attack and subsequent operation, in which a stent was inserted into his heart.
“I had been in hospital about two months ago with a slightly irregular heartbeat, but there was nothing to suggest that something like this was about to happen,” he said.
“It was a real shock to me. Those kind of things can just happen out of the blue.
“I wouldn’t wish the kind of pain that I experienced on anyone.”
Unfortunately Mr Hoye has had his fair share of ill health. He is now 10 years clear of cancer treatment for Hodgkin’s disease.
But he says he is now feeling better than ever and isbusy planning the Northern NSW Harley Owners Group’s 20th reunion, which will be held this weekend.
“I am still alive,” he said.
“I am having a good time and I’m feeling good.
“The doctor says I’ve got to have a bit of time off work so I can rest up.
“I’m also not meant to drive or ride my motorbike.
“But I am keeping busy organising the reunion.”
The Northern NSW HOGs have about 80 members, but it is expected that many more past members will attend this weekend’s dinner-dance, which will be held in the Ballina RSL Bowling Club.
And, of course, it will also be a fundraiser for the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.
“I just don’t think they get thanked enough,” Mr Hoye said.
“People take it for granted that the helicopter is there. But we are really lucky to have a service like this.
“They were really appreciative that I went in to see them, and they could see how well I’ve recovered.”
Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter general manager, Kris Beavis, said the service would not exist without the ongoing support of the local community.
“We’ve had a positive impact on a lot of families, and the important thing is to make a difference in even just one person’s life,” he said.