NSW Ambulance paramedic Rhys Dive says goodbye to job after 22 years

FOR 22 years paramedic Rhys Dive had stood beside people on their happiest and sometimes darkest days, he has tended to their wounds and been a voice of comfort.

On Friday, the NSW Ambulance Inspector farewelled a job he has passionately loved since he joined the service when he was 22 years old.

While he has been based in Bathurst and worked as Central West zone officer since 2007, Inspector Dive’s career as a paramedic began in Sydney.

Though he joined the Royal Australian Navy straight out of school, he decided after six years that he wanted a change.

“I saw an ad [for a paramedic] in the paper as I was flicking through, something just caught my eye so I dropped into a local ambulance station,” he said.

There, he met paramedics who regaled stories about the job – the highs and the lows.

So in 1996, he joined NSW Ambulance and was posted to his first station – Green Valley, near Liverpool in Sydney’s west.

“I remember the fear of that first triple-0 call,” he said.

“In my first four shifts on the job I had a cardiac arrest, I delivered a baby, we had an unconscious diabetic and a heroin call out. Heroin was the big thing back then in the mid 90s.”

Rather than be discouraged by the range of very serious medical cases he was facing on a day-to-day basis, he thrived on it.

In my first four shifts on the job I had a cardiac arrest, I delivered a baby, we had an unconscious diabetic and a heroin call out. Heroin was the big thing back then in the mid 90s.

Inspector Dive said there was one question paramedics were often asked by people who they have just met.

“You must see a lot of bad things,” they ask. “We do see a lot of bad things, but that’s not the majority of what we go to.”

Inspector Dive said he had been to many more sporting injuries or elderly people in need of assistance than he had ever been to horrific car accidents.

However, the number of accident scenes he attends across the Central West has increased since he became an inspector.

“A normal paramedic would only go to one really bad accident a year, where as I, being a boss, go to everything,” he said.

Often, he is asked how many babies he has helped bring into the world, but he only counts the ones he actually delivered, not just assisted with. His number is 16.

“The closest I’ve ever got was a middle name,” he said of anyone then naming a baby in his honour.

In 1998, he received a bravery award for his role in rescuing a 12-year-old girl who fell into the then flooded and fast-moving Nepean River. He suffered hypothermia in the process.

But after 22 years in the job, he said it was time for a change, time to move on to new challenges and he will soon commence a role in workplace safety.

In the lead up to his last days in the service, he recalled the good days and the bad.

The answer to what is a good day is easy – no call outs.

“We’re probably the only business in Bathurst that doesn’t want any customers,” he laughs.

A bad day is a little harder to describe.

“It’s going to someone who has lost their life, not necessarily for that person because we don’t know them, but it’s for the people who are left,” he said.

Inspector Dive said “having to break that news” to someone at an accident scene that their loved one has died has never become any easier during his time as a paramedic.

My career highlight is working in Sydney during the Olympics – the atmosphere, the city, everyone was in such a good mood. It was a pre 9/11 world which was very fortunate.

He has lived in Bathurst long enough to know many people in the community, but that too can have a downside.

“It’s always your worst fear of going to someone you know [at a fatality],” he said.

However, he also sees the relief in the face of patients that he does know as he arrives on scene.

Among some of his highlights are working during the Bathurst 1000 each year and the Sydney Olympics in the year 2000.

“My career highlight is working in Sydney during the Olympics – the atmosphere, the city, everyone was in such a good mood,” he said. “It was a pre 9/11 world which was very fortunate.”

While the NSW Ambulance attracts a range of people to the job, he believes there are a few qualities needed to be a good paramedic.

“You need a strong sense of compassion, buckets of resilience and a good sense of humour,” he said.

Inspector Dive said he will miss his fellow paramedics and other emergency service personnel, and he will also miss the job itself.

“I’ve loved it, it’s incredibly rewarding. I remember a lot of jobs for different reasons, including some funny ones and some that I’ve played a little part in their life,” he said.

“I’ve been with someone at the end of their life and at the beginning of their life.”

He will not, however, miss shift work: “I’m the only person in my family who does shift work”.

“Every time I see an ambulance go past I’ll be straining my neck to see who’s on and wondering where they are going,” he said.