THE nights are sometimes darkest before dawn and while driving to a routine patient transfer little did two St John Ambulance paramedics know how dark it could get.
On October 10 last year, ambulance driver Sharron Price and passenger Wesley Ackerman were involved in a head-on collision on Mundijong Road in Oldbury.
What followed were acts of incredible endurance and professionalism during the rescue of a co-worker and friend in a critical condition.
Tonight eight St John employees will receive St John Ambulance Community Hero Award in the service category in recognition of their efforts that morning.
Headlights on, doing the speed limit, they were approaching a bend when Ms Price saw the lights of an oncoming car.
Dipping her headlights she soon realised it was on the same side of the road as her.
By then it was too late.
“It was a pretty horrific experience,” she said.
“I tried to pull right but we hit almost immediately. Next thing I remember I was hung upside down in the pitch black.
“I managed to free myself from the seatbelt and collapsed to the roof. I tried to get out but the door was jammed so I couldn’t get out.
“I was just sitting on the roof and then I saw these headlights coming towards me. A car pulled over and it was a young guy on his way to work.
“I banged on the window and he ran over. He didn’t hesitate and he managed to open the door and get me out.
“Tyler Furlonger was his name. It was so brave of him; especially when you don’t know what you will find.”
Ms Price’s thoughts turned to Wesley.
“I borrowed Tyler’s phone because ours were all smashed and lost in the crash,” she said.
“I couldn’t see Wes at all and I became quite hysterical at how badly smashed up the ambulance was and just kept asking when help was coming.
“Until I went back to the driver’s side that’s when I heard (Wesley) talking, he said ‘my legs, my legs’.
“Then I knew he was alive and had enough brain function to talk.”
First on the scene were paramedics Rachel Lamb and Clint Martin from Rockingham St Johns along with area manager Brendan Saich.
Within minutes, fellow paramedics Bryan Coetzee and Jan-Willem Weeda arrived followed by Luke Fowles.
The ambulance was upside down in a ditch and partially submerged in water.
“We were a bit apprehensive as to what we would find when we got there but once we knew Sharron was ok and Wes was alive we switched straight to work mode,” Ms Lamb said.
“By then (Department of Emergency Services) had arrived with their jaws of life and we worked with them to free Wes.
“It was a high stress, high pressure job that actually ran quite smoothly.”
Critical care paramedic Chris Gleisinger arrived in the RAC Rescue Chopper.
“After the ambulance had been pulled apart Wes had to be held in place and given pain management to keep him comfortable,” Mr Gleisinger said.
“With huge blood loss I had to give him a transfusion on the side of the road before we put him in the chopper.”
Ms Price remained throughout the rescue.
“I stayed on the scene the whole time. It was such a relief see him on a stretcher,” she said.
Mr Saich had contacted Wesley’s wife and was on his way to take her to Royal Perth Hospital to await Wesley’s arrival.
Ms Price is back at work and Wesley is making a good recovery.
Nominations for the awards arrived in their pay packets.
Ms Price felt the least deserving.
“It was a big shock and a bit of a strange thing,” she said.
“I don’t really feel like I deserve it as it was instinct really. It’s difficult to get your head around.
“I had a lot of guilt that he was so injured and I wasn’t. I just had a few minor head injuries and a scratch on my arm with a few stitches.
“I know it wasn’t my fault but I felt guilty that I couldn’t really do that much.
“He could hear me talking to the service and walking around hysterical. It was big relief that Wes couldn’t remember the crash.
“What I did do was get help there quickly.”
Ms Lamb, Mr Martin and Mr Gleisinger were equally surprised.
“It was our last job for the night so it was good in that respect,” Mr Martin said.
“Sharon is back at work at Serpentine. Wes is moving around quite well, I saw him last week it was quite pleasant to see him doing so well.
“This job has been nice to see what we do as paramedics to patients on the scene then see how it affects their outcome, particularly Wes in a positive way.
“To be nominated on the back of all that good work is a little bit more humbling.”