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Good to get back – Anthony's story

Patient handling is an essential part of a paramedic's job.

It was something as simple as lowering a patient on a stretcher that left Queensland Ambulance Service paramedic Anthony Windle with a lower back injury and incapacitated for work.

Anthony was diagnosed with a lumbar disc protrusion in his spine and, at 60 years old, had doubts that he would ever be able to return to the job he had worked in for more than two decades.

“I really didn't think I was going to come back,” Anthony said. “My doctor didn't think I'd make it back.”

Anthony refused to be written off in his career before he was ready to retire and worked hard at his rehabilitation. He was already a fit man, and this fitness gave him a good head start in the challenging journey ahead of him.

A combination of physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, a gym program, and sheer determination allowed Anthony to recover and obtain a doctor's clearance to return to the job he loves.

Anthony talks in this short film about the relief when he “could be part of the crew again” at the Warwick ambulance station.

“It was so good to be able to get back and have a job again, earn some money again, be useful again.”

Credits: WorkCover Queensland would like to thank Anthony Windle, Maria Cruickshank and Queensland Ambulance Service for sharing their experience.

Anthony Windle: Well I was just at a hospital transfer at about 11:00 o'clock.  And by the time I got to Toowoomba Hospital I was loading the patient, and there weren't any other ambos there, so I just loaded the patient on my own and I just noticed pain across my lower back.  I just lay on the lounge until morning, and when I sat up I noticed my back was really sore.  So I just rang the doctor, and I got in that morning, and he said to me “Well, you're not to go back to work until the pain goes”.
Being out of routine I was a little bit frustrated, but, you know, if a doctor tells you do something I generally do it.  Three weeks to the day into the time off, I got up in the morning to go down to the pool to do a swim.  I'd had a bit of tingling in my right foot, but my left leg just went numb and I just hit the floor.  And I was crawling around on my elbows, and the pain was terrible.  It was about eight out of ten.
I didn't want to leave, sort of out the back door.  You know what I mean?  And I wanted to get back, and, you know, if I was injured in the way that I would have to stop, then I wanted to walk out the door under my own steam, you know?

Maria Cruickshank: Queensland Ambulance Service supports our injured workers by being the first point of contact.  Once we know that they get injured, we call them, we see that their supervisor is there for them to support them, to see that they are okay.  If it's a major injury where it's a lost time injury and they have to stay at home, we see that we connect immediately with WorkCover and medical practitioners to allow them to come safe back to work in a gradual form, providing meaningful suitable duties.

Rebecca Pyke: Anthony had a great attitude.  He was open and flexible to any ideas of rehabilitation and ways that we could assist him back to work.

Anthony Windle: I wanted to get back to work, because I really missed it.  You have a sort of a bit of a social aspect to work.  You don't realise it until you're away from it.  And that's why it was so good to get back and do part time duties, because you become part of the crew again, you know?

Rebecca Pyke: Musculoskeletal injuries are usually treated with physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and core strengthening programs.  In Anthony's case he already had a pre-fitness for work, so his recovery was a lot quicker.

Maria Cruickshank: Queensland Ambulance Service supports their staff by taking care of them and being human.

Rebecca Pyke: If a worker is not contacted by their employer, they sometimes can feel disengaged from their employer.  And it also helps that while they're communicating with the workers, they can talk about, you know, what they can do when they come back to work.  So the employee is fully aware of what is available to them, and when they speak to their providers they can tell them.

Anthony Windle: You know, I – I really didn't think I was going to come back.  My doctor didn't think I'd make it back, because I am 60 years old.  But it was just so good to be able to get back and have a job again, earn some money again, be useful again.

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