Marie Long and her husband David. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

 

Masterton’s Marie Long has lived out a full career of firsts in her time as a paramedic for Wellington Free Ambulance (WFA).

She was the organisation’s first female paramedic, and the first woman to be promoted to a Senior Station Officer position as well as being the first woman to manage an ambulance service.

Marie began her career in the ambulance service when she was 16 years old in 1969 as a volunteer in her home town of Featherston.

She then went on to train at the National Ambulance Officers training school in Auckland, and in 1981, aged 28, she joined WFA after being encouraged to become a professional paramedic by her tutors.

“It was never something I thought about because I did not know there were professional female paramedics,” she said.

“I guess they decided it was time a woman got involved.

“I’ve been employed for my brain, not brawn.”

When asked about the challenges she faced, Marie said it was public perception more than anything.

“Initially I took people by surprise and it was just a matter of being professional and getting the job done.

“My colleagues were fantastic. As soon as they realised I was there because I really wanted to be an ambulance officer they were generous and supportive.

“I have very fond memories.”

Marie continued to have firsts during her career.

“She was the first female to be promoted to a Senior Station Officer position as well as being the first female to manage an Ambulance Service.

The Wairarapa Ambulance Service was part of the Wairarapa District Health Board before WFA took over the contract.

Marie’s career in the Ambulance sector ended in 2005 when she moved into the disability sector.

Aside from saving lives, Marie also found love.

She met her future husband, David, at weekend handovers when they were both auxiliary officers.

They became the first couple to train together as advanced care paramedics.

Marie’s husband still works for WFA, and their daughters are heavily involved with volunteering for St. John, one in Fielding and the other in Carterton.

Marie says that to become a paramedic, you’ve got to do it for the right reasons.

“It’s not about making a name for yourself, it’s about making a difference.

“You need to be prepared to put in the hard work.

“It was a fabulous stage in my life and I know I made a difference. I had a wonderful career.”

To find out more about WFA, which is celebrating its 90th birthday this year, go to: http://90years.wfa.org.nz/