How do you tell the difference between someone having small heart flutters and someone on the brink of a possibly fatal heart attack?
It's a dilemma probably best left to experts. Which is why Trevor Mark was so relieved Tutukaka St John ambulance arrived promptly when his partner Dawn Bate, 81, was having heart troubles at her home in the Ngunguru retirement village.
"You just don't know what it is and it's scary," said Mr Mark, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Wednesday, and has had four rides in the same ambulance himself in the past year.
These were for two chest infections and two cases of kidney stones - all non life-threatening but so extreme and debilitating "it would be very, very uncomfortable" for him to wait for an ambulance from Whangarei.
"It's always between two and four in the morning," said Mr Mark, "It's a fair way out of town and the doctors don't live out here, so we really need the ambulance." But volunteer numbers are low, which threatens continuation of the service, something that worries Mr Mark immensely.
"It's hard to get volunteers and we really, really need them."
The benefits of having the local ambulance available are obvious, according to station operations leader Debora Newton.
"Otherwise, patients need to wait for an ambulance to arrive from Whangarei, which can result in delays in critical interventions for some patients."
There is an information evening on Tuesday at 7pm at the Tutukaka Ambulance Station, behind the Ngunguru Fire Station on Waiotoi Rd, to "encourage any locals who may be interested in becoming an operational volunteer for their community to come along and find out what it's about and the level of commitment involved," said Ms Newton.
"The ultimate goal is to have the Tutukaka ambulance fully crewed 24/7 by local residents who are doing their bit for their community."
Tutukaka St John held a similar evening a year ago and had a great response but there are still not "enough staff to have 24/7 coverage".
Mr Mark is urging people to volunteer. "Go for it - you may be in our position one day yourself," he said.