Local LifeFlight Rescue Aircrew Officer John Kennedy stepped out of the chopper for the final time this week, retiring after more than 20 years of service to the organisation.
After saving hundreds of lives over the past two decades, John was congratulated by his team as he returned from his last job on Tuesday.
John said he had completed thousands of jobs over the past twenty years but, looking back, he knew he would not have been able to do it without the close-knit team at the LifeFlight Bundaberg base by his side.
“The jobs go by very fast, but each and every one of those jobs have some significance and they are vital to the community who receive our care every day,” John said.
“We only have a small number of people on the helicopter and a small team that work here, only ten or 11 of us, but we are supported as a big organisation with a number of bases.
“I started as a volunteer back in December 2001 when it was the Energex Rescue Helicopter and continued as a volunteer until about September 2005.
“I then took up full time employment with the service, which now operates as LifeFlight, and have been here ever since.”
While John started off as an electrician, when he started with Surf Life Saving Queensland he realised his real dream was to take to the skies.
“I was an electrician by trade actually, and I did my apprenticeship here in Bundaberg working for a local company and they gave me a bit of a start in life,” he said.
“I had been surf life saving for a few years and I had an aspiration knowing the helicopter was here.
“For three years the chopper was really only big enough to carry a paramedic and a pilot and you know you moved things around to fit the patients in and then the chopper got upgraded after the three year trial which was fantastic.”
While the role had no doubt been stressful at times, John said some of his experiences on the job would always have a place in his heart.
“The most important thing for me is that we are there in people’s hour of need,” he said.
“I think the job itself we do every day and we are well trained and versatile but there definitely are times where like any job it is stressful and your anxiety level rises and the heart rate goes up, but at the end of the day we know what we have to do and how to do it.
“As a team, we lean on each other quite heavily and we back each other up and that is probably the greatest bit that I will take away from working on the helicopter, is that we all have each other’s backs and everything we do we do for one another.”
While every day bought him something different, from attending the scene of a car crash, rescuing someone whose boat had sunk offshore or transporting patients to facilities with better care options, John said, overall, the role had been very rewarding.
“It has been a very rewarding and fulfilling role to have,” John said.
“We all come to work, and the tasks are always very different but sometimes you do get emotionally attached.
“Each and every one of us will have those jobs that sit quite close to our hearts, but in every job we do we are there in people’s time of need.
“We do so many different tasks but each and every job we do has significance to the families.”
He said watching the LifeFlight facility in Bundaberg evolve over the past twenty years was a credit to the hard work of the team.
“It has been amazing to see the evolution of this base over the past 20 years, it is certainly now where it needs to be,” he said.
“We have a wonderful facility here and the aircraft serves us very well.
“The service is a wonderful service, and you know when we go to someone’s aid there is no cost involved and to have that sitting here in Bundaberg is fantastic.”
John said he would remain connected to the Bundaberg team, looking to volunteer for the organisation in retirement to assist in raising the profile and fundraising to support the great work they do within the region.
“I will stay connected to the organisation as I am committed to helping to raise the profile of the organisation and helping out to try and get some more funds through the doors to help these guys continue to be able to fly,” he said.
“That is my mission.”
You can find out more about LifeFlight here.
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