'Scariest part of pandemic' ahead: ambo

·3-min read

As a brand new paramedic in one of Sydney's biggest COVID-19 hotspots, day one of Alex's job was a nightmare.

But she says the most terrifying time in the role begins Monday.

After 15 weeks of lockdown for Sydney, restrictions have been eased, with everything from gyms and cafes to pools, beauticians and retail stores reopening, and people allowed to venture more than five kilometres from home.

But 25-year-old Alex (not her real name) is not excited. She's insulted actually. And she's not alone.

Like many of the state's health care workers who have spent months risking their own wellbeing to save lives from COVID, the idea of lifting lockdown now brings her "massive" anxiety.

"This is the scariest part of the pandemic so far," she told AAP.

"Everyone's so f***ing terrified, all of us in the southwest.

"Look at London - hundreds of people are dying a week and they're just going about it like there's no problem. I don't think Australia is ready for that.

"It feels like all the things that need to be in place aren't and now it's like 'Oh well, we'll see how it goes'."

It's not like her career so far has been a walk in the park either.

Since beginning the job in September, it's been more common for her to watch someone die of COVID than go a shift without interacting with a case.

"My first ever job was a COVID job and if you get a day without COVID, it's incredible. I've had one," she said.

"I even went to a job where a guy had been in an accident - it was a trauma job - and people came out to help him and they weren't wearing masks.

"We found out an hour after we got him to the ED that he was COVID positive."

The literal burden of treating desperately sick virus patients is heavy but so is the mental toll.

"What really hurts me, it's not so much that it's like someone's died, it's the family's response to it," she said.

"I think they just think as soon as paramedics turn up, everything will be ok.

"But if this person has been gasping for air for a couple of hours and their body is starting to shut down, there's very little we can do to reverse that."

Relegating fear for her own safety to the back of her mind can be a challenge too.

"There's certainly no social distancing in a resuscitation," she said.

"You're giving compressions, your face is arm's-length away.

"I feel like when I'm treating someone I can see the germs coming out of their mouth and their nose and I'm always way too close.

"Pretty much every time I go to a COVID patient I'm like, 'This is it. I've got it. I'm going to kill my family, I'm going to put my loved ones at risk'."

It's been an extremely isolating experience and that too is only going to get worse.

"No one's stopping any paramedic or nurse or doctor from going out now but the risk is much higher when you're dealing with sick patients and the potential of giving it to them or giving it to your family."

"I can't afford to go out and go to the pub with all my friends because the pandemic isn't over for me, even if NSW is ready to declare it over."

But despite a difficult introduction to the job, Alex says she's "living the dream".

"I come home exhausted but I think I'm still excited to be in the service."

Saving lives is "pretty cool", she said.

If only the unvaccinated felt the same.

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