National Volunteer Week: St John WA Pinjarra and DFES Baldivis legend Ian Digweed shares his volunteer passion

Community News, Mandurah Times, News, Peel/Rockingham, WA News

Not many people can say they have stuck with something since they were 11 years old but Ian Digweed is not just anyone.

The St John WA Pinjarra Sub Centre volunteer’s pre-teen interest in working as a paramedic has taken him on a lifelong journey of volunteering, including being made an Officer of the Order of St John this year, his 47th with the ambulance service.

As well as volunteering as an emergency medical technician, the Singleton-based 58-year-old also serves as a Justice of the Peace, helps out at the Collie Motorplex, and for the past 37 years has volunteered with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services in Baldivis in its communications division.

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Mr Digweed’s love of paramedicine began in 1977. He started with St John WA as a cadet before working his way up to an emergency ambulance technician position.

“When you’re a young kid, you get very excited about flashing lights and sirens,” he said.

“I guess the ambulance appealed to me because it was a sense of being able to do community service.

“It’s been a real privilege to be able to do it and you get that ability to make a difference.”

Mr Digweed said he had seen a huge amount of changes within St John WA over the years, with upgrades to lifesaving equipment available in ambulances one of the biggest.

“When I started working as a volunteer we had no defibrillator on board and now every ambulance in WA actually carries two,” he said.

“The other thing that’s made a really big change is the amount of medications that can be administered by volunteer ambulance officers and by paramedics as well.

“We’ve got more ability to treat emergencies than what we would have done when I first started volunteering.

“There’s a lot more equipment .. they’re the types of things that have really come a long way.”

After attending countless emergencies across his time as a volunteer, Mr Digweed said one job — where he was instrumental in saving a life — stands out from the others.

“We had a report of a chest pain that was around the corner from a hospital,” he said.

“As we got the gentleman on to the stretcher, he went into cardiac arrest.

“Back then it was precordial thump and defibrillate. We defibrillated several times and did CPR and got him to the hospital, not only alive but he was conscious.

“He was back with us then and that was really something that stood out to say how important CPR is; it’s not often the CPRs end up in a good condition, when somebody regains consciousness again, it’s very, very rare.

“We train to provide emergency care and save lives. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s almost a real and indescribable sense of achievement, of keeping somebody alive to the point where they’ve got a quality of life and they can continue on with their family and friends.”

Mr Digweed trained as an industrial paramedic in 1997 and since then he has worked as a contracted paramedic for mining companies including Rio Tinto and Woodside at remote areas in WA and off-shore oil and gas rigs.

When he’s not travelling for his work, Mr Digweed is at home with his family in Singleton but his volunteering commitments keep him busy.

He attributes his ability to spend time volunteering to a “really good, understanding family” as well as a “good diary”.

“I would honestly say that it’s having that sense of achievement and making a difference within the community that motivates me to remain as a volunteer,” he said.

With this week marking National Volunteer Week, Mr Digweed encourages anyone thinking about volunteering to put their hand up.

“Don’t hesitate,” he said.

“Give it a go, and you’ll be surprised at how much difference you can actually make.

“I think for anybody to be part of any community, you’ve got to be prepared to give something back.

“If you don’t do it, then you don’t know what it’s like, but I always believe that you’ve got to give something back to the community.”

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