ST JOHN Officer in Charge of the Katherine region, Mandy Paradise (pictured) sometimes worries about the fact that she doesn’t have nightmares.
And that is because she has seen the kind of horrific damage to human life on our roads that will haunt a person forever.
“All the accidents we attend to as paramedics have an impact of course, because you just realise how fragile we are.
“When you see how badly a body can be injured, and so quickly, one moment people are on the way to wherever they’re going, and the next minute they’re in pain or worse still, they don’t survive it.”
A registered nurse for many years, Mandy became a paramedic six years ago.
“I couldn’t count how many accidents I’ve attended – unfortunately there have been so many.”
But the accumulative toll of the accidents she has attended is very clear in her mind.
“I would say that one of the hardest things for us, as emergency service workers, is when there’s a young person that’s been killed in an accident.
“Somehow it makes people think about their own families and how vulnerable they are.
“I’ve got children too, and it makes you worry for their safety.”
While the paramedic has been blessed with a resilience and professionalism that enables her to keep a peaceful mind despite her stressful job, she said many find dealing with the onslaught of death and tragedy of road accidents takes its toll.
But for Mandy and her colleagues, the road toll is not just a number.
For them, an injured or deceased victim of a motorvehicle accident is not a one-off sight; a tragedy to cope with once – it is a recurring reality.
“Cars crumple around bodies, and the injuries that are sustained from these crumpled bits of metal, ripped metal, heavy parts of cars, can do such damage to tissues and blood vessels and cause people enormous amounts of pain.
“Very often people are trapped within a car, and it’s hard to remove them because of mangled bits of metal.
“Seeing that sort of thing is quite hard because you need to get them out, and that’s where firies come in, they’re just brilliant too.”
The catalogue of injuries Mandy has dealt with is long, but the ones she finds most difficult, and occasionally enraging, is when there are children involved.
“I think the thing that would frustrate me most would be unrestrained children, or children not in proper car seats.
“I’ve been to a lot of car accidents where a car has rolled over several times, and the children that are in proper car seats, have maybe a bruise on their head.
“I have been to one however, where a very small child was either sitting in the front with the parents or sitting in the back seat, we’re not sure, and it wasn’t restrained in any way.
“That child actually died of its injuries. That is very sad and frustrating.”
But the paramedic loves her job - and it is not because it isn’t difficult, but because she has the capacity to help people at their most vulnerable; when the wheels have literally come out from underneath them, and they are confronted with their own fragility or mortality, or that of their loved ones.
“You go there and get the job done, but usually afterwards you start to think about the implications.”
She said it is important to remember that believing in one’s own driving ability is not enough.
“One of the things that I told my children when they were learning to drive is that it doesn’t matter how good a driver you are, you have to approach it that everybody else on the road is an idiot.
“It’s probably why I drive like a granny, but I reckon I’d rather get there later than dead.”
And Mandy believes if people were to glimpse a little of what she sees in her line of work, they would think so much harder about the risks of the road.
“The impact of just one second on the road can be life altering.
“We move around in speeding bullets, waiting for them to impact with something ... but the thing is, you really don’t get there that much quicker if you’re driving that much faster.
“But looking at the number of car accidents that have been in the Katherine area in the last two months - they are down to a lot of different factors, including distraction, fatigue, speed and alcohol.
“People need to take all the precautions that you need to take, like seat belts, not driving too fast.
“You don’t have to drive to the speed limit if it’s not safe to do so.
“When the wet season starts we’ve got those slippery roads, and all the oil has built up - and I really believe the more precautions you can take the better when driving under difficult road conditions.
“In the end, does it really matter if you’re going to get somewhere 30 seconds later?