‘Old school’ vollies sign off after 35 years
By Ieva Tomsons
ST JOHN Ambulance volunteers Daphne Lee (left) and Lyn Somers will hang up their oxy-vivas this month and retire from active duty at the Toodyay and Districts Sub-branch.
For 35 years, Daphne and Lyn have dropped what they are doing, donned their uniforms and rushed to the aid of countless people.READ MORE
Their departure from the pool of about 40 volunteers will cause more headaches for sub-centre administrator Carolynne Haigh who juggles the roster which relies heavily on stalwart volunteers to respond to call outs.
Daphne and Lyn are ‘old school’ volunteers who join an organisation for altruistic reasons and not for the kudos of wearing an emergency services uniform on days of volunteer recognition.
“Commit because you want to do it and make yourself available,” said Daphne who is happy that new members are rising to the challenges.
Lyn is Bolgart’s longest-serving member and joined the Toodyay crew when Bolgart recently amalgamated with Goomalling.
Daphne has always been based in Toodyay and trained and worked closely with Lyn from the start of their service.
The two women will pitch in and do whatever is needed – baking for fundraisers, selling raffle tickets, cleaning the depots and establishing/maintaining the gardens at the Bolgart and Toodyay bases.
Daphne and Lyn know how to multi-task. They both married farmers (Murray ‘Jack’ Lee and Ted Somers), both had three kids and both worked at their local schools; Daphne as a home economics assistant at Toodyay District high School and Lyn as the librarian at Bolgart Primary School.
They both vividly remember their first call out 35 years ago.
“It was to a friend who died,” said Daphne.
“George Murray and Paul Harrington were on that call and I saw everything on that night which ended at midnight in the Northam morgue.
“I thought, if I can do that, I can do anything.”
George was also there on Lyn’s first call to assist with a girl’s complicated arm fracture.
“It didn’t even look like an arm and I was worried that I was going to pass out when I saw all the blood,” said Lyn.
Over the years, the volunteers have seen massive changes at St John and both remarked that commonsense has taken a back seat to rules and regulations.
They have gone from attending accidents in rough old Fords that could carry four patients to state-of-the-art ambulances with GPS that can transport just one patient.
Paper incident reports have given way to iPads and emergency equipment is updated at a staggering pace.
“Sometimes,” said Daphne “we haven’t even used the equipment and it’s still unwrapped and in the box.”
“People don’t realise that we have to pay for every bandaid,” said Lyn.
With the constant changes to equipment and techniques of dealing with injuries, volunteers have to attend training each month.
Daphne and Lyn acknowledge that the training volunteers receive now is far superior to when they started with St John.
“We’re much better trained and they have almost made us into paramedics,” said Lyn.
Both Daphne and Lyn commented on the skill of the paramedics who arrive in rescue helicopters and say they acknowledge them as the first responders who stabilise the patient until the air ambulance arrives.
“They never treat us as inferiors,” said Lyn.
In their 35 years of service Daphne and Lyn have forged strong bonds with many volunteers including long-serving members such as Charlie Wroth, Paul Harrington and George Murray.
The camaraderie that develops between people who work in often trying situations comes with its fair share of ribbing.
Both Daphne and Lyn are well known for their caring and professionalism and – for talking up a storm.
“When the two are together, don’t even think about getting a word in edgeways,” said Charlie. “In communications, they win hands down.”
Paul and George agree with Charlie that Daphne pips Lyn at the post when it comes to chat.
“There is no danger of falling asleep at the wheel on a late-night job when Daphne is on board,” hoots George who might have to invest in some heavy metal doof doof tapes to keep himself awake.
While Daphne and Lyn are stepping down from active duty, they will still be on hand doing what they have always done – anything that needs doing.