St John recognises ambulance staff, volunteers and community heroes

Press Release

The Governor of Western Australia, Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson AO, has presented Community Hero Awards and Meritorious Service Awards at the annual St John Ambulance WA Recognition Ceremony on the 23 February.

The hero awards are awarded to those who have displayed exceptional judgement and skill to deliver care to someone during a medical emergency and the service awards are presented to St John operational staff in recognition of their resourceful and courageous actions above and beyond the call of duty.

St John Chief Executive Officer Tony Ahern said each of the hero award winners had delivered outstanding first aid under extreme pressure.

“These people have demonstrated courage, skill and exceptional judgement in putting the needs of others first and they thoroughly deserve this recognition,” he said.

“Their efforts saved lives or prevented further injury, often in difficult circumstances.”

Mr Ahern said the awards highlighted why St John is committed to making first aid a part of everyone’s life.

“The more people who are trained, the better the health outcomes – it is really that simple,” he said.

A panel of prominent West Australians from media and health fields selected the award recipients.

The awards also provide an opportunity to formally acknowledge the academic and professional achievements of operational staff, congratulate graduating paramedics and welcome new student ambulance officers into St John. Tributes are also paid to individuals who have served with distinction over a sustained period of time.

Mr Ahern said: “The awards ceremony is an incredibly proud day for everyone connected to St John. Alongside our retirees and those who continue to provide dedicated service to West Australian communities, we also welcome our next generation who will take St John forward in delivering our vision of providing a world class ambulance service.”

The 2018 Community Hero Award and St John Meritorious Service award winners:

Community Hero: Mitchell Hartwig

Mitchell, who is only 13 years old, emerged as a hero when his family was involved in a car roll-over, leaving his mother and stepdad both seriously injured, and unable to help their four children. Mitchell crawled out of the car and pulled his seven-year-old sister Lyla to safety. Mitchell then focused his attention on her twin brother Connor who he managed to help out as well. It is difficult to put into words the maturity and responsibility Mitchell displayed with all his siblings as his mother and stepfather were not able to contribute, due to their condition. Mitchell held things together the whole time.

Community Hero: Jesse Woodward

Back in November last year, 19 year-old Jesse, a nursing student at Curtin University, heard a loud crashing noise from inside a building in Kurrajong Village where he was working as a residential assistant.

Without hesitation, he dropped everything and, making his way through a security gate, he ran outside to see what had happened. When he arrived at the scene he saw that two cars had been involved in a motor vehicle accident. A crowd of people were gathered and Jesse could see two occupants were inside one of the cars – a little girl in the back and a woman in the driver’s seat.

Hearing a hissing noise and smelling fuel, he was worried that the car was going to catch on fire so he rushed over and extricated the little girl from the vehicle. She was crying and wanted to get back to the woman but he kindly but firmly made her stay on the kerb while he went back to help the woman out of the vehicle as well.

Jesse said: “I don’t really know what specifically spurred me into action. I have always tried to have a ‘help if I can’ attitude. I feel like if I can do anything to help protect or preserve life, I will always try my hardest. That is why I am studying nursing.”

Community Hero: Harrison Jory

11-year-old Harrison was at his mate’s birthday party splashing in the backyard pool. One of the boys suddenly collapsed in the water. Harrison moved quickly to keep his head above water and yelled out for help. With Harrison’s assistance, Noah was dragged out of the pool by Jodie, who was hosting the party. Harrison and his friends ran out to the road to flag down the ambulance to help them in finding their way onto the rural property in the dark, and this helped to save valuable time. We are happy to report that Noah fully recovered from the incident. Harrison kept his cool and helped to save his friend’s life. Noah’s mum Fiona said: “We are so proud of Harrison. His smart thinking helped to save Noah’s life. If he didn’t do what he did, Noah definitely wouldn’t be with us now so Noah is very lucky to call Harrison a friend.”

Community Hero: Craig Lawrence

Craig was on his way back to Perth one night when he came across a car that had veered off the Forrest Highway and hit a tree. The vehicle was in flames so he moved quickly to pull driver Lauren from the car and to start administrating First Aid. By now the car was burning fiercely and they could feel the heat from the flames. Craig said: “When I saw her trapped in a car and realised she was alive and not much older than my own daughter, I knew I couldn’t leave her there, so I pulled her out of the car, assessed her injuries, applied first aid, reassured her that everything would be alright and kept her calm until paramedics arrived.”

Community Hero: Bronwyn Lyttle and Deanna Ashley

Community Hero: Bronwyn and DeannaHannah was involved in a high speed head-on collision, her car rolled several times, the front bonnet was ripped from the car and the engine block was catapulted some 20 metres from the vehicle, starting a small bushfire. Bronwyn and Deanna were the first on the scene. Bronwyn, who is also a nurse, describes what they were faced with: “It was horrific. I didn’t think she would survive. When we rushed over to the driver’s side door, we saw she wasn’t breathing and was slumped over. As soon as I tilted her neck, she started breathing, which was a huge relief.” Due to their heroic efforts Hannah is recovering in Perth.

St John Meritorious Service Award:

Joel Moore, Steve Beaton, Darryl Payne, Matthew Greenfield, Chris Gleisinger, Shaun Nicolls, William Hogan, Lisa Richardson, Mark Vowles

When eight-year-old Riley Stiles ended up sliding into a four metre deep sandy trench at a property in Jandabup on 19 November 2017, luck was on his side as his dad appeared on the scene within minutes and leapt into the trench to help prevent any further collapse of sand onto his son. This brave action was pivotal in helping to save Riley’s life.

Communications officer Lisa Richardson took the triple zero call from Riley’s mother and helped to extract information in order to ensure the best ambulance response was sent to the scene.

Within minutes St John Ambulance paramedics and Department of Fire and Emergency Service (DFES) career firefighters arrived on scene to find Riley covered in sand up to his neck. Crews began immediately working to provide protection to ensure more sand didn’t cave in. They were joined by paramedics and fire fighters from the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team who assessed the unstable area before starting to shore up the walls of the trench.

St John Special Operations liaison Joel Moore said the loose dry soil meant any movement around the site could risk further collapse.

“The site was so unstable, Riley was stuck at the apex of the trench so it was like a funnel. Any movement just sent more and more sand on top of him. It would have to be the most technically difficult incident I’ve ever had to deal with from a management perspective.”

The USAR team has specialist trained capability to locate and remove people who have been trapped by buildings, landfalls or slippages. The team acquired state of the art extraction equipment in 2016 – this was the first incident they used it where a human life was at risk.

Paramedics Darryl Payne and Matthew Greenfield were the first St John crew on scene and Darryl made the decision to jump into the trench and assist Riley’s father until DFES arrived.

Special Operations Paramedic Steve Beaton arrived on scene with paramedic Mark Vowles and Steve entered the trench, once it was made safe. He spent a number of hours with Riley, providing him with medical treatment and supporting his father and the USAR fire fighters. Critical care paramedic Chris Gleisinger also assisted Riley for a short period of time in the trench. Clinical support paramedic Shaun Nichols supported the crews with advice and options in case of unexpected clinical changes.

The other paramedics assisted with equipment retrieval and management of the stretcher and the extrication route once out of the hole.

A human chain was formed by St John paramedics, alongside State Emergency Services volunteers and DFES staff to carry Riley out of the trench once he was freed, and the RAC rescue helicopter transported him to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

Scene commander William Hogan said: “It was a massive emotional investment by everyone there. Every single person put in a huge effort.”

Riley spent the night in hospital with minor injuries and was well enough to go home the next day.

St John Meritorious Service Award:

Phillip Crute, Lynne Bassett, Natasha Osgood, Cliff Fishlock, Eric Beason, Matt Doyle

The quiet of the Wheatbelt town of Brookton was shattered on the evening of 6th May when the call came in for a local man who was critically injured while attempting to cross the train tracks in town.

Four volunteer ambulance officers – Phillip, Lynne, Natasha and Cliff – attended the scene and helped to stabilise the patient before he was airlifted by RAC Rescue to Royal Perth Hospital.

Community paramedic Drew Richardson said he was impressed by their incredible professionalism in such a confronting, complex and potentially dangerous case.

“The volunteers actively looked after each other’s safety during the call-out and worked closely with WA Police, Pingelly SES and the volunteer fire and rescue service, and were supported by the clinical support paramedic Matt Doyle.”

After a difficult extrication of the patient from under the train and managing two traumatic amputations of both an arm and leg, and applying tourniquets to stop the bleeding, the officers then assisted critical care paramedic Eric Beason on the helicopter to ensure the best outcome for the patient.

The group was understandably stunned by this case as the patient was well known in town and was well liked by all.

Drew said the four volunteers have supported each other, embracing peer support in its best sense.

“They have performed as a true team, both at and beyond the scene. They then managed to make the best of the case from a learning and development perspective and have remained both professional and discreet within their community. I am happy to see these volunteers acknowledged for their dedication and commitment to their community, the service, and each other.”

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