Inspiring tales of ambulance chases
THE most recent Reader’s Digest list of Australia’s most trusted professions has paramedics in first place — for the sixth year running. My chosen career, journalism, ranks 40th — just ahead of taxi drivers, but one notch beneath sex workers.
Reading through the pages of Paramedico, I suspect it’s a similar story in Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa or Iceland — just a handful of the countries Sydney-based paramedic Ben Gilmour explores in this unconventional and entertaining book.
Gilmour has a writer’s eye for detail, context and pace which gives this story of life behind the wheel of an ambulance; a sirensblaring texture that is at times funny, tragic and morbidly fascinating. Who hasn’t seen an ambulance parting peak-hour traffic on some swollen inner-city arterial and wondered what accident, fire or nightclub brawl it is speeding to?
Gilmour begins his journey as a 19-yearold apprentice paramedic in the outback NSW town of Peak Hill, but it may as well be Timbuktu to most of us. In this oneambulance, one-hospital bed backwater, so little happens that the local greengrocer is able to recite in complete detail Gilmour’s every move. On his first posting he breaks the boredom by driving his ambulance to the post office twice a day to check if his mother has sent more ginger cake. His offsider’s favourite pastime is ‘‘ road kill popping’’, which involves driving his Ford over bloated carcasses to hear them pop under the chassis.