Whilst completing my recent work 'Faces of Pride', I had the amazing opportunity to spend a day with a Paramedic team, huge thanks to Ambulance Victoria. I spent 8 hours with the team, from 6:30am through to 2:30pm, and accompanied them on all of their call outs, had access to the station, the patients (where appropriate) and the ambulance. I was accompanied by Ambulance Victoria's Publications Specialist, who drove me around all day as we chased the ambulance. I cannot thank them enough for giving up their Sunday to give me this opportunity!
I was really excited at the chance to see behind the scenes and experience a day in the life of someone who performs such a vital role. I was also quite apprehensive, as on one hand, I would love to have the chance to capture some amazing moments, but on the other, a quiet day with no major incidents is a good day.
In the 8 hours I was with the team, they had 3 call outs. Each call out involved between 10 and 20 minutes of driving to the patient, perhaps 30-40 minutes of treatment on site,10-20 minutes driving to the hospital and another hour or so handing over to the hospital and filling out paper work. At the depot it could be another 30 mins to an hour of waiting for the next call to come in. In 8 hours, there was maybe 3 hours of direct treatment of patients, the rest is travel, paperwork and waiting.
Over the course of the day, the first patient had attended his nephew's 21st the night before and had 'decided' to sleep on the footpath - he went off to hospital for a blanket, sandwiches, cup of tea, sober up and a HUGE ambulance bill (hope he's a member!). The second patient was an older man who thought he was having a heart attack, he was in serious pain, doubled over a groaning. I think it turned out he had gall stones. They were really great with him, checked him out, got him to the ambulance and onto some pain killers before rushing off to hospital. The third patient was an older lady who was having heart problems at a country festival. That was a priority call, the ambulance sped off for that one with lights and sirens. We caught up with them maybe 10 minutes later after they already had her in the ambulance and under treatment.
I have such respect for the team on the day. They approach each situation as a complex problem that needs to be understood, analysed, and solutions rapidly developed and applied. They were polite and good natured but firm, knew how to deal with people across a variety of situations, and were at all times focussed on the welfare of their patients. While a day like today is good, as there were no life threatening illnesses or major accidents, those situations really do demand the paramedics skill and can be professionally challenging and fulfilling.
It really takes a special person to be able to do this job, as even with professional detachment, in our conversations some of the things they have dealt with would stay with you for life. Amazing people doing an amazing job.
I came away from the day with well over 300 useable images, which I then edited down to 50 or 60 that I was happy with. I sent these through to Ambulance Victoria for authorisation and then selected the final 8 images as part of my essay.
The Paramedic featured in this essay is Phil, who also took part in my Faces of Pride series.
Below is the final 8 shot photo essay that I produced as a final part of my study this year.