Katrina Edwards is incredibly grateful to Leisa Lasker and her fellow paramedics for all the work they do to help the community. Photos: Kerrie Brewer.

Twenty-two-year-old Ashleigh Edwards has had a rough three years.

Following a severe tonic-clonic seizure at the Garran shops in 2019 that resulted in an ambulance trip to the emergency department, Ashleigh has needed the help of ACT paramedics a further two times for serious health concerns.

Today is Thank a First Responder Day and Ashleigh’s mother, Katarina Edwards wants to thank the paramedics who have come to her daughter’s aid multiple times.

“Ashleigh has a number of conditions, she has a moderate intellectual disability, severe autism, severe ADHD. She’s also now been diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” Mrs Edwards said.

“For me, over the years our interactions with hospitals and doctors have been mixed … whereas our interactions with the paramedics, they’ve always listened to what we’ve had to say and adapted to make it not as frightening an experience for Ashleigh.”

A few months after the severe seizure, Mrs and Mr Edwards contacted the ACT Ambulance Service (ACTAS) after they noticed Ashleigh had begun acting abnormally.

For two hours she was in great distress, screaming and crying on the ground, thinking she was falling.

“It was more than just a meltdown,” Mrs Edwards said.

They later found out that she was having a manic episode, but the first hurdle was getting Ashleigh to the hospital.

Mrs Edwards said her daughter was so distressed she had to be heavily sedated to get her safely into an ambulance.

“So that we weren’t so traumatised by it, they brought in a second ambulance and a second set of paramedics to assist in restraining her to try and sedate her,” she said. “For us it was really frightening but they were fantastic.”

Ashleigh Edwards knows the paramedics are always there when she needs help.

On 30 April 2020, ACTAS responded to a third call-out to help Ashleigh after her eyes became stuck looking upwards in an adverse reaction to medication. Mrs Edwards was advised that if it lasted for longer than 20 minutes to call the ambulance.

“She was really distressed, there was no way she was going to go on the trolley because, to her, everything is scary,” Mrs Edwards said.

Leisa Lasker was one of the paramedics who responded to the call. She said that to help Ashleigh, they worked with Mrs Edwards to create a plan that kept her comfortable while going through the distressing situation.

“We worked with her and her mum to come up with a plan of what the best approach would be, the best ways to approach her and talk to her, and work around what might be our usual practice of putting people on the stretcher and taking them to hospital,” Ms Lasker said.

Mrs Edwards sent a thank you to Ms Lasker and her partner for the help they provided.

“The first two times that we had the paramedics, I didn’t send a thank you only because we were just in this state of ‘oh my god, what’s going on?’” Mrs Edwards said.

“The third time was actually quite mild and moderate.”

A collaborative effort between Fortem Australia and emergency response services around Australia, Thank a First Responder Day aims to involve every Australian in saying ‘thanks’ to those who put others first in the line of duty.

From her own experiences with paramedics, Mrs Edwards believes they deserve recognition.

“They don’t get thanked enough for everything they do,” she said.

“We all expect them to be there when we need them … but it’s important that they understand that they’re appreciated.”

Ms Lasker has been a paramedic for almost two years and said that while she’s just doing her job, it’s nice to hear back from the community, especially with bushfires, the pandemic, floods and other natural disasters to contend with in recent months.

“You go to work every day and it’s just your job and you just do those things, but it’s really nice to get feedback and know that people appreciate the things that you do,” Ms Lasker said.

“It’s important for those in the job to be reminded that the community sees what they do and is thankful for what they do.”

To learn how you can thank a first responder, visit firstresponderday.com.au or post your messages of appreciation for paramedics, police, emergency response teams and more on social media.

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