Lismore, Ballina paramedics retire after combined 85 years

Recently retired paramedics Robert 'Ward' McIndoe (left) and Glenn Rice reflect on their extensive careers spanning a combined 85 years.
Recently retired paramedics Robert 'Ward' McIndoe (left) and Glenn Rice reflect on their extensive careers spanning a combined 85 years. Contributed

ATTENDING what is arguably the worst road crash in Far North Coast history and getting a bone-crunching hug of gratitude from a burly dad of seven are just two of the many memories Glenn Rice and Robert "Ward" McIndoe have of their working lives.

Recently the men retired, closing the door on a combined 85 years' service as paramedics and "happy to walk away and let the younger generation take over".

For Glenn, who was based in Lismore, the 1989 Cowper bus crash that killed 21 people was something he thought he'd never see in his lifetime, recalling the "horrific injuries" he was confronted with while treating the injured at the scene.

The hug and gratitude of a stocky concreter after he helped save one of the father-of-seven's sons from drowning will be forever etched in Ward's memory.

Unlike most paramedics today, Robert and Glenn were trained pretty much on the job.

A degree is just the start of any paramedic's education, Ward said. He encouraged young paramedics to trust in their abilities and draw on their "commonsense factor".

"Don't stop learning - the more you know, the better you'll be in a crisis," he said.

And while a paramedic's primary focus is helping people, Glenn reflected on the often over-shadowed issue of personal safety when called to violent, drug-fueled jobs.

"Your safety is more important. No good going in there and getting flogged then you're hurt and then you're no good to anyone," he said.

"It's just one of those things - it's a call you have to make."

A simple "thank you" from a patient was a major motivator for Glenn in what could otherwise be a thankless job.


Ballina paramedic, Robert
Ballina paramedic, Robert "Ward” McIndoe (left) retired from his post last month after more than four decades with NSW Ambulance. Contributed

"You've got good people out there who really appreciate what you do, so I suppose that keeps you going," he said.

"I've enjoyed my time. Like every job, some days aren't the best days but you keep going back."

Looking back on his 44 year career, Glenn remembers himself as "the young surfer going to the tablelands to work" in Glen Innes before being relocated to Lismore in the 1980s.

Before moving into his role as a paramedic, Glenn worked in an honorary position with Ballina ambulance station when he was 17 for about two years.

He said his learnings from "the Ballina boys" on the job was "an eye-opener of what was to come".

Ward, on the other hand, was a father of three who made the seachange from Victoria in 1986.

Swapping the cold Riverina winter for the balmy North Coast weather, Ward and his family never looked back.   Before working with the Ballina crews, Ward worked in Lismore where he got to know Glenn. 

Travel around Australia and abroad, spending more time with their kids and house renovations are part of the pair's new adventures post-NSW Ambulance.

After being "brought up" by the NSW Ambulance, Glenn said the service had played too larger role in his life to completely walk away.

"You can't just shut the door on it, there's a lot of people you've met and worked with," he said.

Both men have stayed in touch with their former work mates and banded with a community of retired paramedics from around the state.

Topics:  emergency services northern rivers emergency services nsw ambulance paramedics retired

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