St John issues its own appeal for help

22:37, Jun 20 2011
St john
HELPING HAND: St John ambulance officer Marcel Driessen is reunited with Barbara Hall, who he rescued from the Waitakere Ranges after she fractured her arm while tramping.

When St John ambulance officer Marcel Driessen got a call to help an 80-year-old woman who had fractured her arm in the Waitakere Ranges he was well aware of what could be ahead.

The advanced paramedic is a keen tramper himself.

"I thought we could have a 1.5-hour walk in and that we might have to call the Rescue Helicopter and winch her out," he says.

Barbara Hall had been tramping with five others from her Outdoor Activities Club when she tripped.

"We were coming down a steep track and the track was in poor condition. It was very muddy. We had talked about falling and were being very careful. But a root moved from under my foot and I went down."

Mrs Hall is one of many people who the St John ambulance service helps every day. This is the charity's appeal week, where it raises both awareness of its work and funds so it can continue providing vital services.

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St John is not fully funded by the government and needs community support.

The call to help Mrs Hall last month had a happy ending. When the ambulance arrived Mr Driessen was amazed to see she had walked out of the bush and was waiting for him on the roadside.

A fellow tramper who is a nurse had used maps to form a splint for her arm and put a sling on her.

Mr Driessen saw that the fracture needed surgery and took Mrs Hall to North Shore Hospital.

"As an ambulance officer you accept the huge range of attitudes and emotional responses you get from your patients, but it is a real pleasure to meet a patient with such strength of character and such an amazing attitude. Barbara's main concern was not muddying our ambulance with her boots."

Mrs Hall says she is grateful to St John for their help. The accident hasn't put her off outdoor adventures.

"I'm getting the movement back and I've got physio exercises to do. I'm supposed to be leading a tramp soon."

Despite working 12-hour shifts from New Lynn ambulance station Mr Driessen says his enthusiasm for the job hasn't waned in 23 years.

"The thing I love about ambulance work is you're never in one spot and you often have to think outside the square. You can't get bored in this job," he says.

Mr Driessen deals with between five and 12 cases a day.

"We're the second busiest station in the country."

See www.stjohnappeal.org.nz or call 0800 STJOHN (0800-785-646) to donate.

– Lanuola Tusani is an AUT journalism student

Western Leader