Laura Bishop couldn’t believe her eyes when a familiar photo appeared on screen during one of her final lectures at the Ambulance Education Centre in Rozelle.
It’s a photo Laura has had sitting in her living room for 13 years, and the story behind it is the sole reason she decided to become a paramedic.
“It was a lecture on newborn resuscitation and suddenly the presentation just flipped onto a picture of me, my sisters and Fiona,” Laura said.
The paramedic pictured in the photo, Fiona Dillon, helped saved the life of Laura’s sister Ella when she was just seven weeks old.
In August 2008, Ella had stopped breathing, and as her mum began to care for Ella, Laura and her other sister grabbed the phone, dialled Triple Zero (000) and began relaying the call taker’s lifesaving instructions to their mum.
Fiona was one of the first paramedics to arrive on scene and with the assistance of fellow Albury paramedic Bernie Meares, they got baby Ella breathing again and took her to hospital.
“I remember they were just super caring, the nicest people I’ve ever met,” Laura said.
“Fiona in particular played a big part for me wanting to become a paramedic, she was just so compassionate and caring.
“She was always there for our family and kept in touch after that day.”
Fiona tragically died of ovarian cancer four years later, but not before leaving a lasting influence on Laura, who fulfilled her childhood dream and graduated as a paramedic in December 2021.
“You can say someone’s beautiful but she was honestly a beautiful person, and definitely a role model for me,” Laura said.
Now stationed at Hamlyn Terrance on the Central Coast, Laura said her experience so far has exceeded expectations.
“It’s better than I ever imagined. Everyone’s really welcoming and we’ve got a lovely team here and I’m just loving every moment,” she said.
With COVID-19 cases increasing across the state, many workforce surge strategies have been put in place to meet demand, including 200 new paramedics like Laura who will begin their induction course in late January and early February.
During this busy time, Laura said she often reflects on why she wanted to become a paramedic. “Every time I put my uniform on I always think of why I’m here and the true nature of the job.
I’m not going to let COVID or anything try to bring me down. I’m here to care for people,” Laura said.
“I’ve always wanted to be a paramedic since that day and it’s something I worked really hard for, so I’ll just try and keep that positivity up and always remember why I wanted to be an Ambo.”
While Laura says everyone has their reason for wanting to join the service, it’s not often paramedic students have their reason stare at them in the face during a lecture.
Both Laura and the lecturer, Lachlan Beattie, described that moment as ‘surreal’.
“I couldn’t believe it. Even the lecturer said he’d been doing that same presentation for a long time and couldn’t believe it,” Laura said.
Lachlan, who is a Flight Nurse and Midwife, said Laura’s story was a reminder of the powerful impact we can have on people.
“Often with cases we don’t get to find out what happened to patients. In this case, it was great to close the loop and hear the outcome was so positive,” he said.
“By the time I came to that point in the lecture, we have covered some pretty tough cases – some I still think about 15 years later – so it was great to end on such a good news story.”
The legendary photo is still sitting in Laura’s living room, in her new home on the Central Coast.
“I always look at it and hope Fiona’s watching over me. Every time I come to work I still think of her,” she said.
peaking to the Daily Telegraph, Fiona’s husband Mick Strachan said that he too has the photo from 13 years ago sitting in his living room.
“Fiona would be honoured to have played a small part in inspiring Laura to pursue a career as a paramedic and I’m sure if Fiona was here today she would have been one of the first to congratulate Laura and give her a big warm hug,” Mr Strachan said.