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Northwest Passions

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Meet some of the people whose passions for their work shine through their accomplishments.

Deb Zaccard, chief flight nurse, Rockford Health System, Rockford, Ill. (Nels Akerlund photo)

Deb Zaccard, chief flight nurse for Rockford Health System’s airborne patient transport, has a passion for helping others during a crisis. Whether it’s transporting a patient or responding to a traumatic event, the 49-year-old and her team save lives by responding quickly, and overcoming many obstacles. On the toughest days, the team keeps her going.

“When a crewmember isn’t having a great day, their partner will talk with them and encourage them through it,” Zaccard says. “Or, if both crewmembers are sharing the tough day, we do our best to use humor and get through it.”

Zaccard has made hundreds of flights over Rockford, helping everyone from elderly patients and children, to car crash victims and heart attack patients. She splits her time between critical care and administrative tasks, learning new things daily, a fact that drew her here in 1991.

“When I came out of nursing school, I went into intensive care nursing,” she says. “It was fun and challenging, but I wanted to do something different and learn new things. In flight nursing, there’s a broad base of skills, and I’m able to do many different things. I love that I have the ability to learn something new every day.”

Derek Bergsten, fire chief, City of Rockford, Ill. (Nels Akerlund photo)

Derek Bergsten, Rockford fire chief, has a passion for both of his families. He’s dedicated to supporting his wife, children and parents, and also the nearly 300 men and women inside the tightly-knit fire department.

“With the support of my wife and my kids and my family, nothing is impossible,” Bergsten says. “They have the same faith in me that I have in this department. As part of a crew, our department builds some very close relationships, and we like to say this is part of our family.”

Since he joined the fire department at age 23, Bergsten, now 41, hasn’t stopped learning. He’s obtained degrees and certifications in fire sciences and public administration. This fall, he’s also expected to complete the Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy.

As chief, he’s no longer a front-line fighter, but he still responds to some of the 24,000 emergency calls his department receives each year.

“I visit every fire,” Bergsten says. “It’s important you don’t lose touch with your crews on the ground. I like to talk with the victims and see how I can support both them and my firefighters on the ground.”

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