Strange days indeed! – Gympie Today

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By Donna Jones
Over 120 years, there were plenty of memorable events, both for good and bad reasons for the staff of the Gympie ambulance service.
One of these events occurred in 1932 when Deputy Superintendent at the time, Roy Snook, had to get inventive when transporting a patient at Amamoor.
A flooded creek was proving to be a difficulty, but Roy constructed a makeshift boat made from a bath tub and empty wooden crates into which they loaded the patient and ferried them across and then drove the remaining 30km to Gympie.
In the early days, the phone number for the ambulance in Gympie was 1 – even easier than 000!
Ambulance officer Allan Treeby got into a spot of trouble in July, 1998, on his very last day before retirement.
He was cleaning some leaves out of the guttering on the station building at Nash Street, when he fell off the ladder, breaking his forearm.
He happened to be the only officer at the station that day, so he gave himself some first aid and then drove himself in one of the ambulances to Gympie Hospital – thereby making himself his last ever patient.
A sad reality is that ambulance officers are often required to attend serious fatalities, especially in the Gympie region.
Not all of them were as bad as they first appeared.
Ambulance Officer George Reid came across just such a case in 1988.
He was called to two car crash on Brisbane Road.
After determining two women in one of the vehicles had only minor injuries, he then went to see to the driver of the other car, who was speaking with police.
As he turned towards him, George could see he was covered with blood.
He immediately went to tend the man, before the man, looking down at this shirt and jeans told him he wasn’t injured, and the blood was due to his job as a slaughterman at Nolan’s abattoir.
But sometimes, things are much worse than could be imagined.
Stan Stutz came face-to-face with a nightmare when, as a lone ambulance officer, he was called to a serious motorcycle accident involving a rider and his female pillion on Power Rd in 1971.
The male rider wasn’t seriously injured, however the female had severe head injuries and was non-responsive.
As Stan placed her on the stretcher, he recognised her as his 18-year-old daughter.
She was stabilised at Gympie and sent to Royal Brisbane, but died seven days later from her injuries.
To his credit, Stan continued in the role, despite this devastating loss, until he retired due to ill health in 1985.
Getting to incidents in a hurry, has always been a priority for the ambulance staff, but not so for the committee.
At a committee meeting on 30 July 1925, Mr McCathie thought the cars were being driven too fast along Mary and other streets in town.
Another committee member, Mr Coombe agreed there should be an instruction to the drivers to regulate their speed in town.
Superintendent, Lewis Dean disagreed and said when a call came in, it was usually described as urgent and that people were waiting on them therefore the matter was dropped.
Mr McCathie, several years after this, was involved in an accident at which he said he was “agreeably surprised at the quickness of the Brigade in arriving.“
In the early 1930s Lewis Dean was fined three pounds for exceeding the 12 miles per hour speed limit through local intersections by Mr Bracewell.
Soon after, he had to take Mr Bracewell to hospital and according to an interview Lewis gave in 1975 when he got an MBE he threatened to give Mr Bracewell a “rough ride“.
“He just laughed,“ Mr Dean said at the time.
“I think he was too sick to worry about it.“
No ambulance service has a perfect track record, and in Gympie in 1956 Mrs Pat Cousins called an ambulance for her infant daughter at the time, Ann.
Ann, now Mrs Ann Hewitt, is still waiting for the ambulance which never came, after she was taken to hospital by other means at the time.
And did you know that up until the mid 1960s, members of the community would bring their cats to the ambulance centre for de-sexing?
They would use chloroform to sedate the cat and in the final operation, Tom Skennerton was performing the surgery, with Ron Lawrence the anaethetist.
Ron said they were doing well, until Tom “almost amputated his finger“, and so they stopped offering this service.

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