08 November 2018

Interview with Sandy Macken, author of Paramedic - One Woman's 20 Years on the Front Line

Author, Sandy Macken
Sandy Macken is the author of Paramedic - One Woman's 20 Years on the Front Line and she joins me today to chat about her memoir, her career as a paramedic and her reading habits.

Thanks for joining us Sandy. What was the most challenging part of writing your memoir Paramedic? I wanted to give the reader the opportunity of walking with me step by step through some of the toughest jobs I have faced. I had to completely immerse myself in the thoughts and feelings of every single moment in order to achieve this. 

One particular chapter was so stressful in the writing and editing that my hands would become sweaty and my nervous system become quite activated. (Can you guess which one? lol) So I had to pick and choose the right times to do the writing, because I knew that it would be a bit of a ride for me. Along with the challenge would come the gratitude, for the peace and good health I was enjoying, so it was both "bitter sweet" and that is the point of the book; to inspire that balance of heart and mind of both our challenges and the blessings that often hide among them.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to become a paramedic? Know that the job will grow your soul and that can be hard work but well worth it. Strive to keep an open heart.

What training do you need to undertake in order to become a paramedic? What are the different levels/titles/ranks you progress through?
Nowadays most people come in after a three year degree in paramedicine. The levels progress from trainee to qualified paramedic. There is then a competitive application process for those wishing to further specialise. There are various specialisations including "Intensive Care" which the stories in the book reflect. Other areas of specialisation include Extended Care and aeromedical as well as Special Operations which is similar to a rescue role.

What do you wish the public knew when it comes to receiving treatment from a paramedic or calling an ambulance? 

A calm environment and honest answers is helpful. There is really good medical advice given through the triple zero number.

What are the most common mistakes good samaritans make when giving first aid before an ambulance arrives on the scene? 

I probably don't see most of them. Simple helpful measures and timely calling for an ambulance is best.

Have you ever delivered a baby?
Been there a few times! A job that always raises the heart rate. I helped a woman give birth on a bench seat outside hospital at 5.00am on a cold winter morning. That was the day I learned that it is possible to give birth sitting upright on a chair. And that birthing women are completely awesome.

Do you ever need to go to court as part of your job?
Yes, I have taken the stand a few times. It isn't a regular occurrence, but I have been called as a professional witness, mostly for violent crimes.

Do patients you’ve assisted ever ask to meet and thank you down the track? How do you feel about meeting patients you saved?
Yes. It is AMAZING to meet the patients. I have had a couple of experiences that were quite beautiful. What really struck me is how different a person looks when they are close to clinically dead. That experience is something that I take with me forever too, so to meet that person, whom I had the privilege of helping in such a dramatic way for me has been incredibly moving and sometimes part of a healing journey too. It is often a great success, to preserve life for someone. The gift for me is that incredible sense, that life is so precious.

What’s your favourite way to unwind after a difficult shift?
Swim in the ocean. It has a cleansing effect second to none. It lifts my spirit.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
Books that educate and inspire me.

What are you reading at the moment?
Our baby is five months old, so reading time since her birth has been a shared delight. We are reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett.

What was the last truly great book you read?
I have to say The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. A classic tale that teaches me something new every time I read it. Another one I read to my daughter.

Thanks for joining us Sandy and for all the good work you do in the community. Paramedic is published by Rockpool Publishing.

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