What’s two decades between friends: Rhonda and Debbie reunite
- Firm friends are back on road in dynamic duo after almost 20 years
- Rhonda Saville and Debra Daniels undertook three-year paid paramedicine apprenticeships at St John WA as young mothers in 2004.
- They worked together for four years at Victoria Park station and reunited on road this month despite being at different stations.
Paramedics Rhonda Saville and Debra Daniels have forged a bond that has seen them through almost 20 years of different metropolitan postings at St John WA (SJWA), so when Debbie needed a partner to return to road she knew who to call.
The pair became firm friends in 2004 after being among the only paramedicine student intake at SJWA who were young mothers with children in primary school, living in Perth’s hills.
“We’re best mates. We’ve been constant friends the whole way through,” Rhonda said.
They were the last three-year student ambulance officer cohort to have paid inductions, which allowed them to work and get paid to study at night to become paramedics, which was largely a male-dominated profession.
“I think with more flexibility these days more women can join but it’s mostly young people coming through now as they have to have university degrees, whereas we were older with kids,” Rhonda said.
“But our skills are the same, we just got more intensive training early on.”
For Debbie it was a time of great upheaval having moved to Perth from Albany during a divorce, with no parental support around, so Rhonda’s friendship was of huge comfort.
“I had been a country kid all my life, so I was really anxious as I hadn’t driven in Perth and I had never even read a map,” Debbie said.
The pair eventually spent four years together at Victoria Park station, where they learned each other’s manner of working, which came in handy when it came time for Debbie to return to road duties.
Until this month, Debbie had spent 18 months away from frontline duties managing Kelmscott station while recovering from back surgery. Rhonda meanwhile did on road shifts from Belmont.
Despite being from different stations, SJWA metro ambulance operations accommodated Debbie’s request to partner Rhonda in the roster so once again Debbie had Rhonda for support – and a laugh.
“It’s the best job, just don’t tell anyone. If they know we’re having this much fun they might change it,” Rhonda said with a chuckle.
Debbie said lights and sirens was only a minor part of being a paramedic and the biggest part of the job was helping elderly people, who often only needed a change in medication or checking over after a fall.
Rhonda agreed, saying some of the biggest changes in ambulance has been collaborative projects led by Departement of Health such as Virtual Emergency Medicine (VEM) and the WA Virtual Emergency Department (WAVED) which provide alternatives to always taking elderly people to hospital unnecessarily, where they can be exposed to more illnesses.
“All the work that is being done to alleviate the flooding of Emergency Departments and finding alternative pathways is really good,” Rhonda said.
“Sometimes when an elderly person has a fall but they are not seriously injured and an ambulance gets called to take them to ED, but that’s where VEM and WAVED can step in.”