REALITY television buffs may have noticed a familiar face on their TV screens recently, with Gippsland MICA paramedics Carina Gibson and Paul Dodd featuring on the second season of the Channel 9 show Paramedics.
Paul is the team leader at Korumburra and Mirboo North, while Carina is based in Sale.
The observational documentary series follows the lives of paramedics in their line of work, with cameras capturing unguarded moments of compassion, love and laughter in the course of their life-saving duty.
Working 12 hour shifts, the pair, and a number of co-workers, were followed closely by a host of cameras throughout their day to day working lives, detailing the journey from ambulance arrival, pick-up and drop-off to emergency care.
Mr Dodd said he jumped at the opportunity to be involved in the program.
“I got a phone call from one of my bosses who thought I’d be an interesting character for the show because I’ve got a big beard and am covered in tattoos and am a little bit different so he asked me if I’d be interested in going on it,” he said.
“I then met up with the producers and the rest was history.”
The paramedics were required to wear body cameras, with their every move captured on film.
“It took a little while just to sort of forget they were there but once you got into it, it wasn’t that bad,” Mr Dodd said.
“The cars that we drove had some 15 cameras in them, they were decked out in the back and through the front so there was no movement in the car at all that wasn’t captured on film.
“In the ambulance itself there was a lot of static cameras on every nook and cranny. There would be a person filming in the back of the truck who would follow us into jobs and then we would have chase cars that would be loaded up with another cameraman and a sound tech and a producer as well as one of our managers to make sure he could answer any questions from people.
“From a hospital perspective, once we turned up at hospitals, we just turned them off before we went inside so there was no interaction with the hospitals.”
With people’s lives at stake and a job still to do, Mr Dodd said the show’s producers maintained a high level of professionalism and made sure their presence did not interrupt procedures.
“If it was in a public place they would just pixelate the face but anytime we went into people’s homes on entry we just made them aware that we had body cameras on,” he said.
“We also had a cameraman whose name was Rocket who would follow us in and out and would always let people know that we were filming and that nothing was live and that if they didn’t want it we would just go outside and take off our Go Pros and go about business as usual.
“Most people were pretty good, there weren’t too many people that were negative to it.
“It certainly didn’t change the way we did the jobs, we acted the same and did the same stuff.”
Whilst the viewer will never know just how much ‘reality’ makes up reality television, Mr Dodd ensured everyone on the show was genuine and did not change their personality because they knew the cameras were rolling.
“One of the prerequisites of me going on the show was I didn’t want to have to cover anything up,” he said.
“I swear a lot, I like to have a bit of a laugh and joke, and I made it pretty clear that those things were non-negotiable.
“Some days it was very quiet and we didn’t go to a lot but other days it was busier. They followed us into everything, it didn’t matter where we went or what we did, there was a camera with us. It was definitely interesting.”
The program is run in conjunction with Ambulance Victoria to act as an educational tool more than anything.
Mr Dodd said he hoped viewers who tuned in were able to gain some insights into what happens in the medical world.
“There’s a little bit of sadness and a little bit of laughter so it covers most bases of what we do in ambulance,” he said.
“I think the most important thing that I wanted to portray during the show is that it’s not all candy canes and rainbows.
“We see darkness, so I think it’s important for people watching at home to understand that an ambulance isn’t something that drives fast to put bandaids on people, we are game changers and have life saving techniques.
“We have a bit of a joke and a muck around but when we are with patients it’s game on.
“Hopefully the viewer gets to see the beauty of what we do from an ambulance perspective and pre-hospital medical perspective.”
More than two million emergency calls are made every year in Victoria at an average of one every 12 seconds.
Paramedics is televised Tuesdays at 9pm on Channel 9.