Raquel Stevens

I only know your names as Mitch, Hayden, lady paramedic, and the mystery man on the 000 line, who all helped save my 101-year-old grandmother this week.

Paramedics are some of the most overlooked members of the healthcare system.  They shy away from being called unsung heroes. However, highlighting what they do is not sung loud enough.

Last Tuesday, I found out first hand.  I was in Daylesford to do an interview for the Burrow Banter, and brought my grandmother, Marjorie, her 77 year old son,  Barry, (my stepdad) and my golden retriever, Butter, along for the ride.  The oldies are always excited about a road trip.  Even the dog loves the country air.

How quickly it all went pear-shaped.

My Nan was looking quite tired after lunch and moments later, in the passenger seat, she started to lose consciousness.  Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, her breathing became shallow, then her whole body went limp.

I immediately pulled over and called 000, and the softly spoken man on the other end kept me calm as I watched my Nan slowly slip away.

Panic set in, and he advised us to get her onto the ground as quickly as possible.  Ever so calmly he gave me step by step instructions on how to give CPR and clear her airways.  She was still nonresponsive.  However, I could see she was faintly breathing.  It felt like an eternity, but the man reassured me the ambulance was on its way.

Barry became increasingly distressed and I was struggling to comprehend what was happening before my eyes.  Nan was dying right in front of me. Barry, her only child, standing there helpless, thinking ‘this is it, we’re going to lose her right at this moment, after such a beautiful day out.’

The first paramedic turned up.  He asked us to explain the situation, then sat with Nan and kindly said, ‘Marge, my name is Hayden, everything is going to be alright.’  Immediately we knew we were in good hands.

In the distance I heard sirens.  The ambulance was only moments away.  At this point my mind shifted to being a little girl.  I remember spending every weekend with my Nan, we would go to the football on Saturday afternoons, and in the evenings, I would make up a dance routine for her and Pop to watch.  She taught me to knit, play cards and even how to place a 50 cent quinella on the horses.  She’s now reached the ripe old age of 101, survived two World Wars, The Great Depression and Covid. She doesn’t use a walker, isn’t on any medication, gets her hair done once a week, plays Euchre with me every Thursday, and still loves a pub lunch with a steak and glass of white wine.  Marjorie Frances MacDonald, you are one extraordinary human being.

My thoughts are broken when the second set of paramedics arrive.  Hayden is asking Nan a series of questions. “What day is it, Marge?’  She replies, ‘Tuesday.’  Next, he says, ‘What year is it?’  She quips, ‘You know I’m 101!’  We all giggle.  Nan’s back.  I have my Nan back.

Then we discuss the best course of action.  It’s unclear at this stage whether Nan has had a heart attack or possibly a stroke.  Either way, she’s stable, alert, and alive.

Had it not been for the competent care of these first responders, this innocent day trip could have turned into one of the worst days of our lives.

Plans were made to transport Nan to St John of God Hospital in Ballarat.  Barry and I followed the ambulance in my car.  There is confusion when we get there though. Somehow Barry and I end up at the wrong emergency department.

In moments of stress, the body and brain can play cruel games on you.  We eventually find Nan, but the paramedics have already moved on to their next life saving job.

We missed our chance to express our gratitude.  So, dear Daylesford paramedics, and Mr 000, I’d like to find you all to say a proper thank you.  Also, to let you know the next morning, Nan was sitting up in her hospital bed, eating strawberry jam on toast and enjoying a coffee. Her only question, ‘Where’s the dog?’  Bless her.

Speaking with local icon, Max Primmer a few weeks ago, he mentioned his grandmother once said to him, ‘Don’t be sad when I’m gone, be happy that I was here.’

Thank you, paramedics, and Mr 000, I’ll now have my Nan here a little while longer.

Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.