The accidental paramedic
India Strange had never considered pursuing a career in paramedicine until her early 20s, when she was involved in an incident at a church gathering in suburban Brisbane. When one of the younger boys in her youth group needed a partner to join him on a dual-lane horizontal bungee run, India was happy to oblige.
“This kid didn’t have anybody else to go with him, so I thought, ‘Sure, I’ll do it’,” recalls India, who was raised in Mitchelton in Brisbane’s north-west.
“So we both strapped in and started the ride, and some other people turned up and started pulling the bungee cords. They let go of me first and I flung back, hit the outside wall, flipped over the inside wall and into the other kid’s lane, and then stopped on the back wall. Then I’ve gone to stand up and they’ve let him go and he’s speared back into me at full force.”
The ensuing collision left India stunned and hurt. Before long, paramedics arrived on the scene.
While she had incurred several injuries as a result of the accident, India was lucky to escape with no major permanent damage, recovering after a week in hospital. But the attention and care that she had received from the paramedics on the scene left a lasting impression.
“It’s hard to put it into words,” she says, “but it was just their openness and this feeling that they knew what they were doing that put me at ease. They were professional, they were reassuring … the care that was given to me, it sort of kickstarted my paramedicine journey.”
In early 2020, India began studying a Bachelor of Paramedicine at ACU’s Brisbane Campus, a degree she hopes to complete by 2025.
“I have a strong drive to help people, and I think that’s an important attribute for a paramedic to have. You need the technical skills, but you also need openness, honesty and understanding.”
Finding an ‘off switch’
It was at ACU that India discovered another one of her passions: cheerleading. She is the university’s first-ever transgender cheerleader, joining ACU Brisbane Cheer in 2020.
“I threw myself straight into the deep end with cheerleading at ACU, and I made friends for life from it because they’re a really cool crew,” says India, who recently travelled to Hawaii to compete at the Global Dance and Cheer Games with the New South Wales-based Oxygen All Stars, her team finishing second in its category. Her current home club is the Outlaws All Stars in Brisbane.
In cheerleading, India has found an outlet to balance the stresses of life. Since she began her transition two years ago, she has experienced gender dysphoria and discrimination, affecting her mental health.
“Cheerleading serves as a bit of an ‘off switch’ from society for me, and it’s been really good for my mental health,” she says. “When things are really stressful and crazy with study and life, you go to cheer training and you have to focus on the one thing for a short period of time before you go back into the real world.”
When she’s not cheerleading, studying or working, India keeps herself busy with a range of on-campus activities, whether it’s Campus Ministry or other groups like the Brisbane Student Paramedic Society.
“I’m pretty well-known around the Brisbane Campus,” she adds. “I feel like ACU is a home away from home. They support you when you need it and give you guidance when you need it, and that’s been really good for me.”
With a keen interest in aviation, India’s ultimate goal is to become a flight paramedic, providing care to sick and injured patients in an aeromedical environment.
Having recently had a taste of international travel on her cheerleading trip to Hawaii, she dreams of working overseas in the United States or Europe.
“It was a very eye-opening experience because travelling internationally as an athlete is something I’d never done before,” she says. “I think that jumping into these high-pressure environments is a good way of discovering yourself. It’s amazing how much you grow on an international trip.”
As for the freak accident that led India onto her path in paramedicine, she looks back with gratitude that it happened, despite the immediate trauma that it caused.
“With the condition I was in when I got to the emergency department, it’s probably really lucky that I didn’t break my neck,” she says.
“On the other hand, if it wasn’t for that accident, I probably would have gone into studying something completely different. That incident and a few other things in life have drawn me into the paramedicine career, and I’m really happy to be on this path.”
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