Real Life

REAL LIFE: Meet the husband and wife duo saving lives from the sky

This couple's job is like no other.

By As told to Take 5

Ruth Parsell, 43, from Sydney, NSW, shares her inspiring story:

Walking into the room of our plush hotel, with views overlooking Sydney Harbour, I let out a squeal of delight!
It was scattered with yellow gerberas, my favourite flower.
"What on earth…?" I asked my partner Brian.
My stomach leapt when I turned to see Brian perched on one knee.
"Ruth, will you spend the rest of your life with me?" he asked.
"Yes," I cried, kissing him.
Brian and I had been together for three years.
We met through our jobs as New South Wales Ambulance paramedics and got chatting over a cuppa one day after attending raging bushfires in Canberra.
Our relationship stepped up a notch from camaraderie to coupledom when Brian, 34, asked me out on a date to the movies.
Seeing him, a thick-skinned, proud para sit through a chick flick, I fell in love with his soft side.
He was such a kind and considerate guy.
But our blossoming relationship was badly timed.
We met through our jobs ... and fell in love. (Image: supplied)
I was about to embark on five years of medical school followed by three years training as a junior doctor.
"We'll make it work," he reassured me.
He was right!
And after he slipped the single diamond platinum band on my finger, we spent the rest of our hotel mini-break organising our wedding for the following year.
Saving people had always played a big part in our lives so it felt right to marry at the Prince Henry Hospital, where the Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter was based and where Brian had spent many years.
Our hospital-themed big day was magical.
After a six-week honeymoon, we settled into married life and soon we had a baby girl, Georgia, and then our son Ben two years after that.
Juggling being a mum and working as a junior doctor was intense, but Brian, while still working as a paramedic, was the most amazing hands-on dad and took care of the kids so I could concentrate on training.
"I'd like to join a helicopter medical team as the flight doctor," I told him when I was fully qualified.
My time as a paramedic meant so much to me. (Image: supplied)
Brian was stoked – it meant we could work together again.
"We'll be Mr and Mrs To-The-Rescue," he joked.
When I became a registrar with CareFlight on the Rapid Response Helicopter, we got a lot of attention for being a husband and wife team crewing an emergency helicopter service.
"I didn't realise how unique we were," I remarked to Brian.
When working shifts together, we'd fly to emergencies across greater Sydney to transport and treat critically ill and injured patients.
If rostered on together, we'd take the kids to school and head to the hangar ready for the life-saving day's work ahead.
As Chief Inspector at NSW Ambulance, Brian coordinated the emergency services at the scene of the incident and worked closely with Fire and Rescue NSW, and police to ensure the area was safe.
My job would be to save the patient's life.
Together, we've seen so much – from heartbreak to happiness.
We love working together. (Image: supplied)
Last year, we attended a crash scene where a 17-year-old boy had come off his motorbike.
Brian was the first road paramedic on scene to the young man who'd suffered a serious head injury.
"Needs a tube," he said over the radio to me as I looked down from the window of the helicopter, the blades swirling as we came in to land.
With that instruction I knew exactly what I was flying into and the patient was put into an induced coma, attached to life support and taken to hospital.
There are tragic incidents, too, especially where there's a child involved.
Years ago, Brian was unable to save a young boy who'd suffered a terrible head injury.
He was a local boy and known to many, including us – that was devastating.
We've saved so many lives but it's the ones you can't that linger in your mind.
Brian and I support each other and talk openly as we both understand exactly what each other goes through.
People often call us heroes.
But we don't see ourselves like that.
Enjoying time with our family. (Image: supplied)
It's a privilege to save lives.
Our kids on the other hand think we're super cool!
They love that Mummy and Daddy have unusual jobs.
But when we clock off, we love to head home to Georgia and Ben to have dinner, read them a bedtime story and be just regular parents.
We don't wrap them in cotton wool, but we don't tell them about the things we see.
Sometimes they'll see the news or would've heard something from one of their school friends and quiz us.
"Mum, did you try and save the kid who drowned today?" Ben asked me one day.
When I nodded, he gave me a hug.
"That's so sad," Georgia said.
"That's why we worry about you guys around water as accidents can happen very easily," I replied.
Our jobs have made us all more compassionate and empathetic.
When at the scene of an accident involving a child, I'll tell the parents to grab their toy so they can cuddle it for comfort on the way to hospital, or I'll tell a distraught mum and dad that it's okay to give their little one a kiss before we take them off in the chopper.
Occasionally, during a rescue, Brian and I steal a loving glance.
We realise how lucky we are and never take anything for granted.
I still pinch myself that we're the first and only hubby-wife team doing what we do!
We've seen the extremes – from lives saved to lives lost – but doing it with my soul mate, I know the sky's the limit for us.

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