It was at last year’s Stromlo Running Festival in Canberra when Ryan Deale heard his team was dealing with a seriously ill patient.
The founder of Get First Aid, the business Ryan runs from his Binalong home which provides medical services at major events, turned up to see his team in control, tending to the patient expertly.
“I just stood back and watched them treat that patient,” he says. “That really was a moment for me. I felt like a dad watching his kids and seeing that they’d all grown up.
“They did so well. Had it not been for them, the patient could have died.”
Ryan and his wife, Alison, established Get First Aid in the NSW rural community of Binalong back in 2018. He had been working in the first-aid business, providing medical care at major events and teaching first-aid for many years in the city, but was not happy with the way it was being done.
It’s not the easiest of jobs, helping to keep patrons safe in situations where there can be thousands of people present, often outside where the elements can’t be controlled and when alcohol may be involved. However, Ryan and his team take it in their stride.
His Get First Aid team now includes around 30 doctors, medics, first responders and students. They provide medical services at events of all sizes, as well as first-aid training and assessments, and first-aid kits and supplies.
Ryan believes it’s a role that can’t just be taught from books or online.
He says when you’re dealing with real people in real situations, it has to be on-the-job training. He emphasises the importance of his role on the ground with his team, observing what they go through and ensuring they are trained for every emergency.
“We need to teach in a practical way,” he says. “You need to be able to physically touch someone to find out exactly how they are doing. That’s not something you can learn online.”
Although Ryan’s business now has contracts for most major events organised by the ACT Government and others throughout NSW, it is the smaller events that give him and his team the greatest satisfaction.
“We do the Woolfest at Boorowa each year,” he says. “We go and talk to the group weeks before the event, go to their meetings, find out what they need, what they’ll be doing, and make sure there are no changes to the itinerary.
“It’s the same for the Harden Kite Festival. That’s a community based event, too. We attend the meetings beforehand, present our suggestions to them, and listen to what they say. Working together with groups such as these is what makes it worthwhile.”
Ryan says one of his favourite events to work at is Yass Show.
“We really enjoy doing it because it’s a small group of people who do great work, and they’re all in it for the right reasons – for the community and to make it safe for everyone.”
When Ryan and Alison started their business in 2018, they had eight people on their books for training. Now there are around 30, including medicine and nursing students who may be transitioning into becoming paramedics.
“They get on-the-job experience working with us, and we get these well-trained people who we can rely on,” he says.
But Ryan and his team have had their own ailment to deal with during COVID-19 lockdowns. They call it ‘event itch’ – the longing to get back into the field.
“We haven’t been doing training during the lockdown for the protection of our staff and students,” he says.
He adds that maintaining his business and keeping staff on during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic would not have been possible without government support.
“Without that, we would not have gotten through so we are very grateful.”