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Media Releases | St John Ambulance
VOLUNTEERS: Ashleigh's story
  10 May 2021

Fifteen-year-old St John NT Cadet Ashleigh was well-prepared to face the organisation's annual Cadet First Aid Competitions over the May Day long weekend. Not only had her Cadet trainers, St John NT Paramedics Abbey and Rhys prepared her competition team for the absolute worst, Ashleigh had recently faced a real-life mass casualty emergency.

You may have heard ABC’s Jo Laverty speaking with our Craig Garraway about a terrible crash that occurred on the Katherine Bridge some weeks ago. He mentioned a young St John NT Cadet who was on the scene and able to help out – Ashleigh was that Cadet.

“We were driving to dinner and it happened right before our eyes. We got out of the car to help and ended up being first on scene along with a nurse and an off-duty paramedic.”

That off-duty paramedic was Ashleigh’s Cadet trainer Abbey, so she was already well-acquainted with Ashleigh and knew her skill level.

Upon seeing Ashleigh, Paramedic Abbey breathed a sigh of relief.

“I was very thankful when I got out of the car and saw Ashleigh, I immediately looked to her and said ‘I’m very glad you’re here.’ She came over and assisted me with quite a number of complex tasks in the first fifteen minutes before the ambulance arrived on scene. It’s a real credit to herself and her professionalism. We’re all really proud of her down here.”

“There were a number of complex injuries on the scene, and Ashleigh was integral in saving a lot of people and preventing their injuries from becoming life-threatening.” Abbey said. “In terms of critical patients, we had four, and we had a further five patients who were non-critical, with non-life threatening injuries who still required transport to hospital.”

Ashleigh joked that her Dad referred to her and Abbey as the “dream team” for what happened – everyone that needed to be there, was there in those first moments.

“I got to watch the paramedics in action and see how the triage played out, see people call the ambulances and see the treatments they went through. I’ve always wanted to be a paramedic, so for me it was a really rewarding experience and it did inspire me more to become a paramedic because I got to see everyone in action”.

Ashleigh was able to further demonstrate her skills at the St John NT Annual Cadet First Aid Competitions on 2 May.

Kids as young as twelve were isolated in rooms under the sharp eyes of adult volunteers to ensure there was no leaking of the scenarios for a few hours at the Territory Wildlife Park while moulage (fake injury makeup) artists set up scenes requiring medical assistance - a drowing, patient shock, crocodile attack, bush walkers and a serious snake bite.

Ashleigh’s top-secret scenario ended up being a whopper – and very Territorian.

“There were three patients in total. One was unconscious from having been pulled under the water by a crocodile. Her boyfriend had tried to save her, got bitten by the croc and had a laceration to his arm. The third patient had witnessed the whole thing, was in shock and having an asthma attack.”

“Because of how well trainers Rhys and Abbey had prepared us, we were very calm and collected throughout the whole process and got through it very well.”

Katherine was well-represented at the competitions, taking out third place in the team category and coming second in the individuals.

Ashleigh is well on her way to following in Abbey’s footsteps. Starting as a St John Cadet, Abbey became an adult volunteer in Tasmania and moved to the NT two years ago to become a paramedic. She now supports the Cadet Division in Katherine and has some advice for anyone keen to start a career as a paramedic.

“A really good way to start is to work on your communication skills, your leadership skills and your problem-solving skills. Rhys and I try to work with our Cadets on Monday nights to build some of those skills with them – in terms of becoming a paramedic it’s more about becoming a well-rounded person, just like any other health professional, especially our emergency nurses and our doctors.”

Congratulations to Ashleigh who received a Silver Commendation, awarded to her for the application of her skills, judgement or devotion to duty in the Northern Territory.

If you would like to become a volunteer with St John NT, please contact the Volunteer Department via phone (08) 8922 6205 or email, or visit our website to sign up now!

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