Fraser Island ambulance officer in charge Lisa Ward with her emergency response vehicle at Lake MacKenzie.
Fraser Island ambulance officer in charge Lisa Ward with her emergency response vehicle at Lake MacKenzie. Nat Bromhead

Watch out for beasties

WHILE most people think of Fraser Island as paradise, the local paramedic says sometimes it can be a case of beauty and the beast.

Fraser Island Ambulance officer-in-charge Lisa Ward urged visitors to be careful around the island, and that its beautiful weather and scenery sometimes disguised hidden dangers.

“It can certainly be absolutely glorious out here, and then it can turn around and bite you if you’re not aware and very careful out here,” she said.

Ms Ward has been in charge at the island since early June, when she and another advanced care paramedic, Deb Sgroi, began working there after the Happy Valley field office was upgraded to a full-time 24-hour station.

In that time she’s seen sprains, strains, bumps, cuts, fractures and countless bites and stings, many courtesy of local wildlife.

“We get a lot of bites and stings like sandflies, mosquitoes, spiders, occasional dingo bites.”

But she said many injuries were caused by people themselves, with tent pegs being a prime culprit, as well as fish hooks which often find their way into anglers’ fingers.

“Sometimes even the most experienced end up with the odd fish hook in there, probably the combination of a fish hook and a beer.”

Ms Ward said the island’s one 4WD ambulance had to attend to more serious injuries including motorbike and 4WD accidents.

“Obviously those things get all the media attention but they’re probably the lesser in terms of occurrence,” she said.

Ms Ward said proper planning and preparation could ensure visitors to the island had an enjoyable holiday, and not one memorable for the wrong reasons.

Visitors should always keep in touch with the rangers and follow their advice, stay hydrated and be sun smart, she said.

Because there is no permanent doctor on the island and the closest medical centres are reachable only by boat or helicopter, medical treatment could be hours away, she said.

Because of that, visitors should bring a well-stocked first-aid kit, keeping in mind things they take for granted on the mainland are not readily available on the island.

“My suggestion for travellers is that when coming to Fraser Island, they should consider bringing a first-aid kit that is stocked similarly to if you were travelling overseas. Not only should it include the basics, but some extras.”

And due to the remoteness of the island, the ambulance officers rely on a network of community volunteers, trained by Queensland Ambulance Service, that form a first response network.

“Basically, without these volunteers our job would be so much harder,” Ms Ward said.

But it’s not just the volunteers who help out ambulance officers on the island. Ms Ward said everybody pitched in. That sense of community is one of her favourite parts about the job.

“It’s certainly a very community-focused operation out here. We get a lot of help from the locals in order just to function,” she said.

So with the new 24-hour ambulance station up and running, along with the helpful community and proper preparation, visitors to Fraser Island should have no problems making their trip to the world’s biggest sand island the holiday of a lifetime, as long as they pack a sense of adventure along with their first-aid kit.


FRASER ISLAND FIRST-AID KIT

Sunscreen, insect repellent, insect bite cream, waterproof Band-Aids, sterile dressings, bandages, triangle bandage, adhesive tape, antiseptic, burns gel/pad, saline, vinegar, tweezers, splinter probes, scissors, thermometer, emergency blanket, resuscitation mask, disposable gloves, first-aid booklet



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