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Spotlight shines on our emergency responders

In the first of an occasional series profiling the people who work day and night to keep Wairarapa’s communities safe and thriving, MARLEE PARTRIDGE talks to Geoff Gilbey.

A paramedic with the Wellington Free Ambulance [WFA] service in Wairarapa, Geoff Gilbey has been in the ambulance service for close to 10 years, working in the UK for the majority of this time.

Having started as a patient transport officer, Gilbey then graduated to a role as an emergency care assistant before becoming an emergency medical technician, and finally a paramedic.

He’s lived in New Zealand since October 2022 and bought his first home in Wairarapa with his wife in October last year.

“You’re all so lucky, it’s a truly beautiful place,” Gilbey said.

Despite many people being familiar with paramedics from a plethora of television medical dramas, Gilbey said one of the biggest misconceptions about his role is the idea that he’s essentially an ambulance driver.

“We are considerably more than that” – among other things: attending medical emergencies and accidents; triaging patients [which involves working out which patients need to be treated first]; treating ill and injured people, including those with traumatic injuries and shock; giving pain relief, including intravenous treatment; and stabilising and transporting patients to and from medical facilities.

Or as Gilbey put it, “Our role is varied and dynamic, ranging from social care issues to emergency life and/or limb saving callouts.

“All ambulance staff are normal, average, everyday people who have to see and deal with very abnormal things,” he said, adding that there appears to be limited public awareness of “how often, as complete service we constantly go above and beyond what is expected of us”.

As a paramedic, Gilbey said, there’s almost no opportunity to get bored – which is one of his favourite aspects of the job.

The constantly evolving nature of his role, the responsibilities that come with it, and the esteem in which it’s held in the community are also upsides of his chosen career.

“We are endowed with such a large amount of trust,” Gilbey said.

“Welcomed into people’s homes and instantly treated as a family member – that’s pretty cool.”

When he’s not bustling about Wairarapa for work, Gilbey enjoys the outdoor activities the region has to offer, describing himself as a “busy fella”.

“I mountain bike, canoe, and fish,” he said.

“Our new house keeps me busy, and ensuring my wife is spoiled [which is no more than she deserves] is a full-time job in itself.”

Gilbey’s top summer safety tip?

“Be careful with that sun” and slip, slop, slap plenty of sunscreen on – ideally one with a sun protection factor of 50.

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