Deidre Heinrich wouldn't label herself a hero. In fact, when we told her she was nominated as a local hero, she spent a few minutes trying to convince us why it's her job, not her, that is heroic. But no matter what she says, Heinrich saves people's lives on a daily basis in a profession that was named the most dangerous in America by the Wall Street Journal.
Heinrich, who also volunteers her time at many local charities, including the Bethlehem Inn, the Red Cross and the Bend Community Center, works 24-hour shifts as a flight nurse for St. Charles Medical Center. Each morning Heinrich heads to work, she is debriefed with her crew, which includes pilots, respiratory therapists and other flight nurses, and prepares her plane or helicopter for the unknown. Depending upon the day, Heinrich and her three-person team may respond to as many as six calls during a 24-hour period.
Heinrich and her team fly in to calls around Oregon, Washington and Idaho, airlifting trauma victims from car accidents, farm accidents, heart attacks and other life-threatening situations. "We go for the worst of the worst because the resources are so expensive for a helicopter or airplane," she says.
Heinrich has been a nurse for 29 years, but became a flight nurse just 11 years ago when she finally finished the necessary training.
"I'd always wanted to be a flight nurse ever since I started my nursing career," she says. "I had to build up time in other areas in order to become a flight nurse. You have to be really competent in intensive care unit situations and emergency room situations."
Heinrich credits her family with allowing her to pursue her dream. "They've made it so that I've been able to give excellence to my job," she says.
As to the "most dangerous job" moniker, Heinrich says she's never felt unsafe.
"Sometimes when you go out you crash, and when you crash, you die," she says. "But I have the utmost confidence in the mechanics and pilots."
And for Heinrich, the benefits outweigh the risks. "It's what I love to do," she says
Occupation: Flight Nurse
Family: Married: Jay Heinrich, Radiation Therapist. Children: Vincent, 25, Mackenzie, 22, Gage, 20, Madison, 17.
Personal hero: "The community of Bend and surrounding communities that continue to support what we do.". "It's part of who I am."