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Dealing with the extremes of trauma

FATAL CRASH: A police investigator at the scene of a fatal traffic crash on the Bruce Hwy at Kybong, after the driver, a Cooloola Cove woman, was cut out of the vehicle and, below, paramedics work behind screens to save the woman (left).
FATAL CRASH: A police investigator at the scene of a fatal traffic crash on the Bruce Hwy at Kybong, after the driver, a Cooloola Cove woman, was cut out of the vehicle and, below, paramedics work behind screens to save the woman (left).

EVERYONE has ways of coping with trauma.

Most of us probably rely mainly on the support of family and friends.

But there are some people and some families who experience more than anyone's fair share.

Emergency workers attending vehicle crash scenes - far too many of them in recent weeks - deal with trauma on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.

Imbil police officer-in-charge Terry Kennedy and Gympie ambulance chief Wayne Sachs both say they and their colleagues just have to accept what they see and do their jobs saving lives.

It is either that or get another job.

Simple as that, if you ask the people who know.

"It's part of the job. I've been doing it for years," Sgt Kennedy said this week.

He was conducting a static patrol at the Mary Valley Hwy end of Moy Pocket Rd, where police had attended four crashes in a week, three of them in the previous three days.

Two days later he was at the side of the Bruce Hwy at Kybong, attending the Gympie Region's seventh fatal car crash in eight weeks.

"Talking it over with family helps," he said.

"And you sort of have to remove the emotion from it and do your job.

"You do get some that affect you though," he said.

"We have professionals, human services officers, we can get in touch with and they can help you deal with it."

But not everyone can cope.

"It's one reason why a lot of people aren't coppers," he said.

"I'm lucky. My wife Karen is an ex-copper and our kids have grown up in police stations.

"So I've got a lot of family support."

Wayne Sachs has just entered his 41st year on the road, driving ambulances and applying the increasingly sophisticated paramedical skills that ambos bring to the job these days.

"It really was just first aid," he said of his early days in the job, carrying a medicine box with cleansing fluid, bandages and not a lot else.

His work has largely centred on the highway from Cooroy to Childers, still the most dangerous section.

As the appointed officer-in-charge at Childers, he remembered thinking how good it would be to get a break from the "highway work" for which Gympie was renowned.

"I was in for a rude shock," he said.

Less staff meant he attended just as many crashes.

Topics:  ambulance officers fatality police road safety trauma

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