Cheryl Elston - Talking it through

Running time
3 min 5 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I worked in the ICU team, and we were fairly a tight-knit team. Good old Aussies, we use dark humour to get through things. So we used humour to laugh things off and try to get that emotion out. We had a saying in ICU that we had more kills than the infantry because we lost a lot of patients.

And that sounds terrible, but that was our way of, "Okay, let's get to the next patient and see what we can do for them." Annette Outram, who was the captain, like I said, nurse that was in charge, I don't think she realises how well she looked after us. Maybe she did. Maybe she did understand. Because if we did have a loss or a particular traumatic patient that we might have looked after for a number of weeks and they still passed away on us no matter what we did, she would get that team together, and we'd talk about it. We'd go, "Okay, this is what happened. We did this. That didn't work, so then we tried that."

So she'd debrief us at that time, I don't think I quite understood what that was, and I think that assisted our team, in particular, a lot. It's interesting. Somebody said to me a couple of years ago that asked me about Rwanda, and I said, I talked about it. She said, "Do you realize you just used the word survived?"

And I went, "No. No, I didn't." And she said, "Yes, you did." And I went, "Oh, I've never thought of it like that before," but, yeah. I guess. And I think having Annette there and the rest of the ICU team, the nurses, we had a RAAF, Navy nurses, and they were outstanding. They never treated the medics, and there was Army medics there, she and the nurses never treated us anything but equals and involved us in everything, and I think that went a long way to certainly helping me. I had very close friends that weren't medics.

So when we went back to the barracks, we talked about other things, so it got your mind off it. And Theresa DeGroot was a corporal clerk, and her and I were best mates, and again, she was that support that I had. So if we had a bad resus, we had a bad one. I think it was about 10 children brought in that had been playing with an anti-tank mine, and not all of them made it, but that was a real rough day. So when we got back, Therese sat us down, we had our cups, canteen, we made a brew, and we just talked about stuff, everything but, just to get your mind off it. Take a deep breath and back into it the next day.

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