Paul Reeves is the only fully qualified Intensive Care Paramedic in Alice Springs. Picture: Chloe Erlich

Meet dedicated Alice Springs paramedic Paul Reeves

3rd February 2019 5:49 AM
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In the hours and days following my ride-along in Alice Springs Paul Reeves repeatedly checks I'm not traumatised from the jobs we went to.

He also - unnecessarily - profusely thanked me for helping with Maria's treatment.

His peers say this level of fatherly follow-up from Paul is not unusual.

In fact, Paul told me about the value of debriefing after every response to ensure his colleagues could process and cope with the trauma they face.

Intensive Care Paramedic Paul Reeves is kind, compassionate and passionate about taking care of the people of Alice Springs. Picture: Chloe Erlich
Intensive Care Paramedic Paul Reeves is kind, compassionate and passionate about taking care of the people of Alice Springs. Picture: Chloe Erlich

"Taking approaches like that and being inclusive with the whole team, so the paramedics, the junior paramedics, the retrieval doctors, the non-emergency staff … that's how we can try to progress, develop, learn and make the most of the experiences we have," he said.

British-born Paul, 48, has worked in emergency medical services for more than 24 years.

Originally from Budmouth in the UK, he trained as an intensive care paramedic (ICP) before spending almost 13 years working in international conflict, post-conflict, developing and remote environments.

Paul Reeves was a tactical medic in the UK in 2004.
Paul Reeves was a tactical medic in the UK in 2004.

He worked with police teams in the early 2000s before many of the modern terrorism threats emerged. And has since worked in Iraq and Afghanistan providing emergency management, field care and aeromedical retrieval capabilities as well as other developing regions from Algeria to Cambodia.

As Alice Springs' only qualified ICP, he is responsible for the town's Critical Response Unit. The 48-year-old is a cool operator, providing treatment, guidance and mentoring at the most serious emergency scenes.

But he admits paramedics "are like ducks" - calm on the surface but paddling furiously - and they're expert multi-taskers.

"We could be confronted with half a dozen choices and all of them have merit. All of them may get to a suitable outcome, but we've got to pick one," Paul told me after we debriefed later.

 

Paul Reeves with some youngsters on Rennel Island in the Solomon Islands in 2014.
Paul Reeves with some youngsters on Rennel Island in the Solomon Islands in 2014.

 

Paul Reeves on the end of a Navy winch in the South Pacific in 2013.
Paul Reeves on the end of a Navy winch in the South Pacific in 2013.

"Although we will pick the one that we feel is best at the time, it's a very fluid thing that requires constant decision making, reassessment, re-evaluation, and perhaps the courage to hold course or change course based on what you've got.

"And all at a fairly fast pace."

At some jobs there will be hundreds of pieces of information that they must simultaneously process. Because of their remoteness, paramedics in the Territory rely on retrieval doctors working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The RFDS retrieval doctors are drawn from staff who work in the Alice Springs Emergency Department and the Intensive Care Unit.

Sometimes a retrieval doctor will jump in the ambulance to respond by road with the retrieval level medicine that the doctors and health teams deliver in conjunction with ambulance, paramedics and ICPs.

"It's very personal here," he said.

"Not only do we work closely but it's small enough that we're on a first-name basis.

"It's a nice experience compared to a much larger metropolitan environment."

Paul Reeves now calls Alice Springs home. Picture: Chloe Erlich
Paul Reeves now calls Alice Springs home. Picture: Chloe Erlich

Paul is candid about the "exceptional" challenges - from the environment, harsh weather, vastness, chronic illness and culture - of working in Central Australia.

But Paul and Caitlin are both visibly committed to training, educating and supporting their greener colleagues. Even when a patient does not require treatment by an ICP, one of their drugs or particular skills, they will still get involved, contribute information and guide less senior paramedics.

"New paramedics who come here are moving away from families to work in challenging environment treating some of the sickest people in the world," Paul told me.

"It's a complete culture shock in many ways.

"They get a real-world experience that no uni will prepare you for."

Paul moved Down Under with his Aussie firefighter wife almost four years ago.

His son, who turns two in March, was born in Alice Springs.

"This is rapidly becoming home," he said.

Paul Reeves has worked in medicine all around the world, including 2005 in Afghanistan.
Paul Reeves has worked in medicine all around the world, including 2005 in Afghanistan.
Paul Reeves takes a moment in the shade in Nooristan, Afghanistan in 2005.
Paul Reeves takes a moment in the shade in Nooristan, Afghanistan in 2005.