By Mitchell Clarke
One of Ambulance Victoria’s most dedicated paramedics has been formally recognised with an Ambulance Service Medal.
Kooweerup woman Jo Algie, who is currently the team manager at the Drouin Ambulance Station, says the special honour almost escaped her at first.
“I was told about the award in an email, but I thought it was spam at first and I actually nearly deleted it,” she laughed.
Ms Algie told the Gazette she felt both “surprised and uncomfortable” about receiving the “significant” award.
“Everything I do is because I love it and it seems crazy to get an award for something you love doing,” she said.
“I’ve had quite a few friends that have received the award. I regard it as something that’s pretty significant and special.”
Ms Algie’s journey into paramedicine came from a “mid-life crisis”.
The former IT worker volunteered with the Lang Lang CERT’s – a group of volunteers under the AV banner – and immediately fell in love with the job.
“My very first job was a patient with chest pain in a car on the side of a highway. I thought ‘I need to do this forever’ so I went to uni in St Albans, while I had three little kids. I thought it was the stupidest thing ever but I don’t regret it for a single minute,” she recalled.
“It’s been a ride ever since. There’s such a variety with this job. You start work at 7am and you don’t know where you’ll be by 7.15am. It’s awesome.”
Ms Algie has been a frontline paramedic with Ambulance Victoria since 2009. Her first posting was close to home in Pakenham. She was then based out in Grantville before leading the Drouin base for the past 18 months.
Throughout her career, Ms Algie has played an integral role in a number of initiatives, including the organisation’s Peer Support Program, where she’s worked tirelessly to support paramedics through difficult events, with the help of her peer support dog, Lexi.
“We’re pretty much there for the organisations – both paramedics and the corporate side. We talk to people if they’ve had bad jobs or if things are just crappy. It’s about checking in on people in a proactive and reactive manner,” she explained.
“Lexi has made a huge difference. She’s an icebreaker. People try to be stoic when they’re talking to other people, but as soon as you bring a dog into the equation, they bring their guard down. It’s amazing what a dog can do.
“To see the smile on the faces of paramedics when they’re getting out of the ambulance; they’re usually tired and hungry, but they see Lexi and they immediately smile.
“She’s a big fluffy sook of a dog and will do anything for a cuddle. To her, you are the world, and she doesn’t care if you’re the CEO or the cleaner.”
Ms Algie has also been instrumental in leading Ambulance Victoria’s uniform recycling program, which has repurposed thousands of uniforms to those in need.
“In the last two years, we’ve re-homed pants, shirts, jackets, vests and shoes. We’ve sent clothing to an indigenous school outside Alice Springs, we’ve sent jumpers to Syrian refugee camps and other clothing to Chisholm TAFE tradies,” she said.
“The places it’s gone has just been huge. You can’t just go and throw a shirt in the bin if it’s got AV badging on it because you’ve got this paranoia that someone will find it. Instead, we’ve been able to reuse it all and it just means that it’s not going into the ground.”
Away from the ambulance, Ms Algie, who is also a passionate dairy farmer, has led the AMBOS 4 Farmers Campaign, an initiative that facilitated paramedics to donate money and groceries for distribution to Gippsland farmers, struggling with the ongoing draught.
“As paramedics, we’ve done OK through the drought and Covid hasn’t really affected us financially, we’ve been lucky in a way. There was a group who just wanted to give back,” she said.
Ms Algie said she has no plans for a career change.
“Being a paramedic is my dream job and I’m more than happy where I am,” she said.
“Ambulance Victoria is like a second family. They’ll support you with everything. I just feel so lucky to be able to do what I do. I’m really uncomfortable about receiving this award. I appreciate it, but we work as a team.”