When Lexii Richens is not providing a calming and reassuring voice on the other end of a Triple Zero call for help, you will find her just a couple of steps away from her desk, painting a vivid mural on a wall in the Sydney Control Centre.
With a brush in one hand, a kaleidoscope of colours on a plastic palette in the other, and wearing a splattered apron protecting her surprisingly immaculate Ambulance uniform, Lexii Richens radiates a sense of calm and purpose as she paints.
A labour of love for the Call Taker, Lexii has been painting the intricate landscape of intertwined tree branches and swirling skies since October last year, slowly transforming an entire wall of the artificially lit room into a modern-day fresco.
“We’re looking at our screens so much and they’re so bright. So I didn’t want the painting to be loud,” she said.
“I wanted it to be calm and in that middle area – so people don’t’ know if it’s the morning or the night. That way it works for both day night shift.”
The actual process of painting the mural has been a big learning curve for Lexii, who steps away from her desk when she can to add to it.
“I’ve never painted a wall before and it can be quite daunting having a live audience watch you as you do it,” she said.
While an artistic nature is in her blood, Lexii said she only started painting again after she began working at the Control Centre just over a year and a half ago.
“It was a way for me to take a breath, clear my head, not think about anything else and just enjoy the process,” she said.
“Working here has been a huge shift and a change for me. It’s made me become a lot more motivated, just being around all these people who have achieved so much.
“It’s a job I wake up every morning excited to go to work. It can be a daunting but I love never knowing what the day’s going to bring.”
Lexxi said the most rewarding part of her job is knowing that she’s making a difference in peoples’ lives.
“I love learning more about people. It really humbles me. It brings me back down to earth and makes me feel more appreciative and grateful for what I have in my life.”
But above all else, she gets her biggest sense of enjoyment from her colleagues and the friends she’s made along the way.
“The people I’ve made connections with have changed my life for the better,” she said.
“I’m doing my Paramedic degree at the moment and I’m nearly finished. I just have the practical work left to go and that’s been delayed because of COVID, but I’m in no rush. I’m enjoying where I am and the people I’m working with.”
“Let’s just say you definitely learn more about people when you talk to them at 3am,” she laughed.
While the positives of the job outweigh the negatives, Lexi said the intensity of shift work and the nature of working for an emergency service can take its toll.
“When you get a block where lots of bad things have happened in a row, it can make you quite anxious for the next block. You start to wonder whether it will be a ‘good’ one or a ‘bad’ one,” she said.
“It can be hard to distance yourself from work when you get home. Or even when you’re at work, it can be hard to get some mental space away from what’s been going on.”
That’s exactly what this mural will provide – a beautiful space for people to look at and get lost in.
And similar to other tree of life displays in our Control Centres across the state, staff will be able to interact with the artwork by adding a leaf to the tree with their name on it each time they deliver a baby over the phone.
“I didn’t want it to be a normal, average tree. I wanted to look like the branches were wrapping together, signifying that everyone working here is playing their own part and that we’re stronger together,” she said.
“I’ve added a lot of hidden things in the branches – a nest with eggs, caterpillars, other bugs, flower blossoms, even a galaxy on one side. I’ve already had people tell me all the different things they can see if the clouds.”
In addition to her obvious skill with a paint brush, Lexii also works with resin, creating platters and tables in her makeshift home studio.
“I’ve converted my whole garage/storage room into my art room. My neighbours and their kids often stop by and see what I’m doing,” she said.
Bringing her creativity into her workplace has solidified Lexii’s belief in using art as a conversation piece and a way to create meaningful relationships.
“I’ve discovered that so many other people we work with are artists themselves because they’ve come up and showed me things that they’ve done. It’s made me realise there’s a whole community of creative people here,” she said.
While the mural is still a work in progress, it has already made a positive impact on the atmosphere.
“I’ve had a few people wanting to contribute. It’s so nice they want to be a part of something that’s going to be up there on the wall for a while,” she said.
“The people here have given me so much. I guess I just wanted to give something back.”
This story appears in the February 2021 edition of NSW Ambulance's internal magazine, Sirens.