Lisa Hemphill is no stranger to the world of high speed danger having been an integral part of the North West 200’s well oiled machine for the past 15 years, writes Gillian Anderson.
At present Lisa, from Portstewart, is heavily involved in a Facebook page promoting the campaign and petition for an Air Ambulance for Northern Ireland.
Following the tragic death of ‘Flying Doctor’ John Hinds, who was leading the fight to secure Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for Northern Ireland, a petition was set up to help realise his dream as Northern Ireland is the only area of the United Kingdom currently without the facility to provide such vital medical intervention.
Lisa, who knew Dr. John well, explained: “It came about by accident. I joined the Facebook group and one of the guys who set up the group asked me would I like to do admin because he knew my role within the North West 200.
“Once I got involved I realised that I knew Stephen Henderson, the guy who was organising the petition through the North West because he does PR for Tyco and Lee Johnston.
“Once he found out that I have dealt with the press and know a lot of influential people they said we want you on board, you can help spread the word and anything I can do that would benefit our wee country then I was more than happy to be involved.”
Although the online support snowballed, the organisers of the petition soon realised that this wasn’t enough.
“We had 65,000 online signatures then we realised that we needed 1500 on paper so we have been making a big push on the paper petition,” added Lisa.
“At present we have over 1500 but there are still a lot of people who aren’t online who haven’t signed the petition and we have less than two weeks to get as many names as possible.
“We’ve been trying to get them out to as many places as possible.
“We were at Truckfest, they’re in Joey’s Bar, the Anchor, all the usual hotspots so hopefully the public will get behind us and sign them.”
Since the push to get the paper copies signed began, Lisa has had the opportunity to gauge the feeling of the general public about the campaign.
“People are actually shocked Northern Ireland doesn’t have an Air Ambulance. It’s been quite surprising to learn how many people thought we had one and then when you explain the situation they are more than willing to sign.
“A lot of people also thought it was just to be used for road racing, they didn’t realise that it was for everyone, that it’s for trauma care in Northern Ireland and that any one of us could need it.
“The importance of an Air Ambulance in Northern Ireland is paramount and Dr. John was constantly stressing the importance of it.
“The petition will be taken by Stephen to Stormont on September 7th and that will hopefully be the next step in the realisation of John’s dream.
“Dr. John did fabulous work. His death was not only a tremendous loss to our sport but also to trauma medicine because he was a pioneer.
“At this year’s North West 200 his van and bike were parked outside the press sign on office and he was there everyday and he was always buzzing about and such a character.
“Next year he won’t be there and that’s really hard to believe. However, we need to ensure his dream of an Air Ambulance is achieved and his legacy lives on through his call sign #Delta 7.”
To sign the petition www.hems4ni.com.