She’s been an angel of light to the Glenorchy community for five years now and Queenstown nurse Debbie Swain-Rewi is showing no signs of leaving her post.

The experienced nurse, who runs her own occupational health and safety monitoring business, regularly ran health check clinics in Glenorchy until various funding and contracts were pulled about five years ago.

She kindly offered to continue the weekly clinics for free for a month during which time one of her patients, who was a local identity was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Some weeks before, Debbie had seen him and detected signs that something was amiss, convincing him to see a doctor. “Sadly, he died within four months, but as I was driving back to Queenstown that day, I was thinking, I can’t just say, ‘See you later’, and leave him with cancer,” says Debbie.

From that point on she’s continued to run the weekly, three-hour clinics. “I see on average about six patients a week and it often saves them coming into Queenstown to seek medical advice or assistance, which many of them wouldn’t bother making the 50km trip for,” she says.

Nurse Debbie Swain-Rewi takes a well-earned break.

During that time Debbie has done everything from removing stiches and doing fresh dressings, to blood pressure checks and blood tests. Recently she was able to help co-ordinate medicine for a baby who was unwell, getting a prescription sent down from the mother’s Auckland doctor. On other occasions she’s just there to show love. “I was able to drop milk and bread to an elderly woman whose husband was in Christchurch Hospital,” says Debbie, who is very humble about her massive act of love.

She had one male patient who, after she’d removed half his stiches during a prior visit, later had more removed at a Queenstown medical centre, then decided to remove the rest himself. “People often just won’t come up to Queenstown to see a doctor unless it’s a crisis, hopefully the clinic helps people early, or prompts them to get to a doctor sooner rather than later,” she says.

If Debbie isn’t able to travel to Glenorchy herself she sends one of her own company, Mobile Industrial Health, nurses there in her place. “It’s just nice to help people and I just know how much they appreciate it up there,” she says. While Debbie has absorbed the cost of medical supplies herself as well, the Glenorchy Garden Club has reimbursed her for these over the last year, and she was recently given a grant by the Glenorchy Community Trust, but in typical Debbie style didn’t even use that for herself. It is being used to help fund the replacement nurse when she can’t make it.

The Rural Women NZ Glenorchy branch also recently donated their mid-winter fundraising dinner proceeds to Debbie’s clinics and the members try to show their appreciation however they can with the likes of grocery vouchers and even a massage at Eforea Spa at Hilton Queenstown.

President Kate Scott says the community is incredibly grateful for Debbie’s kindness. “It’s fabulous and so amazing that she gives of her time and expertise freely to us for nothing,” says Kate. “She does it because she believes in the concept of primary health care and getting in early before people end up in hospital.”