SIMPLY being in the presence of the founder and owner of Helicopteros Sanitarios, Maria Jose Cañete, one feels blessed and grateful.
Her story is truly inspiring. From the tender age of nine, Maria knew irrefutably that she was “going to grow up to do something to help people and be of service.” She travelled to London in her late teens to learn English and, on her return, was asked by a Swiss friend to start working for a company providing mountain search and rescue by helicopter.
Maria took the offer with great enthusiasm and discovered that this kind of service felt very close to her childhood dreams of making a positive difference to those around her. At this time the N340 motorway running between Marbella and Malaga was a notoriously dangerous stretch of road. A shocking 38 per cent of people involved in serious accidents on what was known as `the road of death´ lost their lives because the hospitals were not within a close enough radius to get them there in time to save their lives.
Maria Jose recognised this disastrous problem as something she personally could remedy and she knew then that she had found her path and mission in life. From that moment to this very day (and undoubtedly for as long as she is able) Maria Jose worked resolutely to set up what is now the well-known GP service on the Costa del Sol: Helicopteros Sanitarios.
“It wasn´t easy, but nothing was going to stop me. I just knew it had to be done and despite whatever challenges I met, my vision and dream kept me strong, always moving forward, even if it felt like small steps at times,” said Maria.
You could tell that her smile came from her heart, as she spoke about her husband and the support that he gave her when things were particularly trying: “It was so reassuring to have a good man behind me. He believed in me...he told me I had great experience, that I knew what I wanted and that I was strong. Amongst other setbacks, I wasn´t allowed to set up Helicopteros Sanitarios without having to follow all the protocol of setting up a full airline company!"
She added: "Despite the odds, the obstacles and challenges of being taken seriously as a young woman, I told myself to hang on tight to the helm of my ship and no matter what, to keep the dream on course. Despite all the mistakes I made, which I realised on retrospect were important learning opportunities, it finally came to fruition.”
Maria Jose revealed that her greatest inspiration comes from knowing that her members put their complete faith in her company. Some of them have sent her letters saying that they have come to live on the Costa del Sol specifically because the Home Doctor Service provided by Helicopteros Sanitarios gives them complete peace of mind. Others thank her profusely for saving the lives of their loved ones. “There is nothing more inspiring than those kind of letters, apart from watching the passion of my team and knowing we are all on the same page.”
Maria Jose's vision and enthusiasm never seem to dampen as she seeks to take Helicopteros Sanitarios to the next level. The company began as an emergency call service only, but now she employs many specialist doctors as the company is constantly evolving. The next exciting project is to move the company towards the goal of building its own hospital which will be run with her ethos of service and excellence.
When asked how she felt she could inspire others and other women in particular, she didn´t hesitate for a moment: “Many women feel overwhelmed when they try to develop their business here. I always tell people, that when they get up first thing in the morning and look in the mirror, not to see themselves as male or female, but firstly and most importantly as human.
"Don´t begin your day or anything else with a feeling or perspective of separation. We must work hard to understand and have empathy and respect for others...that is the key to making personal and business relationships work. This is what I try to teach my children by example.”
She was not joking when she said: “I do feel a sense of achievement, however I don´t think I will ever feel I have done enough.”
Editor's note: If only we all had this driving sense of helping others, an attitude of servitude and deep caring for our fellow man. The world would be a very different and much more beautiful place in which to play out our but-fleeting visits. A most heart felt thanks to Maria Jose and her wonderful team for all they have done and continue to do for the residents of the Costa del Sol.
Helicopteros Sanitarios not only provides a life-saving hospital transfer service but it also gives its members a complete GP home service on the Costa del Sol. That means whatever your health concern, whether it is minor or an emergency, their dedicated staff will come to your home without delay, as often as you require for no extra cost and diagnose and treat you accordingly in a reassuring, friendly and supportive manner.
This service extends over the whole Costa del Sol.