Thu, Feb 1, 2024 4:00 PM

Patients’ tributes to life saving Flying Doctors Service


Paula Hulburt

Looking out the window of the small plane as it soared skywards against the bright blue, Rob Barrer smiled.

A moment of joy in an otherwise bleak day, the Grovetown musician and sculptor has no doubt the NZ Flying Doctors Service helped save his life.

Paying tribute to the medical staff who helped Rob and wife Anne say how lucky Marlborough is to have access to such a dedicated team.

“They were so cool, so professional. It was a really bright moment in what was a pretty tough day,” Rob says.

“I felt that they saved my life.”

Diagnosed with a rare cancerous tumour on his parathyroid gland last September, Rob had been scheduled for surgery at Wairau Hospital.

But because the tumour was growing rapidly and he was facing a dangerous build up of calcium levels in his body, doctors decided to transfer him to Nelson Hospital.

Anne says she offered to drive Rob to Nelson, but he needed the medical staff and intensive care the NZ Flying Doctors could offer.

The couple will always be grateful for the 24/7 transfer service.

The service is set to launch a $3 million air ambulance plane for the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service based at Nelson Airport.

The new plane, the Beechcraft Super King Air B200, is the newest in New Zealand’s aeromedical fleet.

“This model of plane is ideal for aeromedical inter-hospital transfers and will be instrumental in getting patients in the Nelson and Marlborough area to the specialist or higher acuity care they need,” says Nelson base manager, Ryan O’Rourke.

“We are very lucky here, we have a really good set up,” Anne says.

“I got to Rai Valley and Rob text me to say he was already settled on the ward.

“It [the service] was crucial for getting Rob across and made the trip less stressful.”

Rob says knowing he was in safe hands while being transferred was very reassuring.

“The plane isn’t just for emergencies, it’s a vital link between Blenheim and Nelson when time matters.”

Blenheim vineyard owner Virginia Williams, 74, is also “incredibly grateful” for the service.

After her lung spontaneously collapsed for the third time, Virginia needed treatment at Christchurch Hospital but couldn’t fly commercially because of her diagnosis.

The New Zealand Flying Doctor Service stepped in to help.

“II had been told not to fly with a collapsed lung, but once the drain is in, I thought it might be OK.

“To be told no, the Flying Doctors Service would be taking me, was a surprise. I knew they operated from the West Coast but was unaware they were busy transporting people between other South Island hospitals.

“The flight was perfect, and I felt incredibly safe on the stretcher throughout with a nurse beside me.

“Grateful thanks to all the flying crew, and ambulance staff involved in my transfer.”

People are being given the chance to christen the newest addition to fleet. Visit for more details.

Closing date for entries is 9 February 2024.

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