Praise for Golden Bay volunteers

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 13:00 19/02/2013

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A strong sense of community helps drive St John ambulance volunteers in Golden Bay.

"We all say we do it for our community. We care about our community," says Takaka-based St John team manager, operations, Sue Netto.

She has been involved with the ambulance service for 18 years as a volunteer. Her current role is the daily management of Takaka Ambulance and the Collingwood first response unit.

Ms Netto says she likes the medical side of the job, and the training that helps them cope with "an element of the unknown.

"We learn all these skills and we love to use these skills when needed, including how to stay calm. We train for all sorts but it's never quite like the real thing."

From the time the pager goes for a callout, she is thinking ahead.

"If we're at home we have eight to 10 minutes to get to the station and we can use that time to think about what our treatment will be and how we'll manage the situation. Then there's the drive time when we go to the scene. We talk about who's going to do what and what our actions will be.

"We're always thinking ahead; ‘are we going to need a helicopter? Doctor? Will they need more pain relief than we can give?'."

Ms Netto says all the training and experience does not remove the emotional impact of some jobs.

"We are human. I've shed a few tears at certain instances."

The upside is getting feedback from the community. "It's great walking down the street or getting a phone call when people say; ‘Thanks for helping my mother', or whatever. It's always nice to know they've recovered or there's been a good outcome."

St John Nelson Marlborough Rural support officer Lindsay McCaw says there are 14 St John volunteers in Takaka and a further four in Collingwood. They cover a huge area. "People think it's the end of the world once they get over the (Takaka Hill) but there's quite a bit more [area] than that, eh?"

The Collingwood first response vehicle was established a year ago to provide initial care until an ambulance or the rescue helicopter could attend. Mr McCaw said calls to Takaka St John increased by a third over Christmas and New Year - from a monthly average of 30 to more than 40. Golden Bay's population swells from 5000 to more than 15,000, with the many visitors involved in outdoor activities such as rock climbing, boating and tramping.

Mr McCaw praised the volunteers who stepped up and did the extra hours for no reward other than the satisfaction of working in the ambulance environment.

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- The Nelson Mail

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