New year with our ambos
THE man’s blood had started to dry on the woman’s feet as she leaned down to take his hand.
The 46-year-old man, who suffered severe head and facial injuries after falling down stairs at Burnett Heads in the early hours of the new year, was lying on the concrete as three ambulance officers worked to stabilise him.
It was about 3.30am, blood was seeping into the cement and speckles were on the bright yellow torch I was holding to give the paramedics more light.
Loved ones hovered nearby as the man occasionally moaned, and the woman holding his hand talked to him, but they stayed calm as the officers reassured the patient in between professional assessments of his serious condition.
Their quick hands wrapped bandages, found veins and inserted drip lines filled with pain medication.
He was loaded into the ambulance, driven to Bundaberg Hospital and swamped by hospital medical staff as he disappeared through the emergency room doors.
Along with an incident with a snapping turtle and a fight at the Lighthouse Hotel, the paramedics were having a typical night in the Bundaberg region but a comparatively quiet New Year’s Eve.
My evening with the Bundaberg branch of the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) began at Bundaberg Hospital about 7pm, where I met with officers Tai Blissett and Gayle Moras.
Mr Blissett was a pig farmer in Kingaroy when he decided he needed a change and, since October 2008, has been working as a student paramedic.
“It beats my last life,” he said.
Mr Blissett said he loved the variety in his new line of work.
“I might get 10 patients with chest pains in a night, but each one will be different,” he said.
We drove to a job – a report of a car crash near Langbeckers Road, where the driver had walked to get help from residents.
As it turned out, the patient was well known by the ambulance crew, and after a few questions the pair worked out the car crash story was false.
Mrs Moras said she often became emotionally attached to those regular patients, some with heartbreaking personal stories.
“We do think about it, we do take it home,” she said.
As we continued to transport patients between the Friendlies and Bundaberg Hospital, or met other patients at the airport for a trip to hospital, talk turned to the increasing amount of violence the pair had faced in their daily working lives.
They were hopeful they would not have to face aggression from New Year’s Eve revellers.
“I’ve been attacked with a knife and scissors,” Mr Blissett said.
Mrs Moras said she had had to endure being spat on and kicked while in the line of duty.
But it was clear from the way the pair talked about their jobs that not even violent outbursts would stop them from going to work.
Regional operations supervisor Rick Tenthy said the increasing amount of aggression levelled at his officers was unacceptable.
“The paramedics in Bundaberg are exceptional people doing exceptional work and they deserve the respect of the community,” he said.
Mr tenthy said QAS rules had been altered, so now if a job has even a hint of violence in it a senior paramedic had to visit the scene with the crew called to the job.
“With the help of the Queensland Police Service a number of people have been successfully prosecuted for assaulting paramedics,” he said.
Luck was on the QAS’s side last night, however, with one of the quietest and non-violent new year’s celebrations on record.