It was my privilege last Wednesday and Thursday to be able to volunteer in Whittlesea to help out the bush fire victims
I had heard a call for GP volunteers on the Tuesday and tracked down the Whittlesea Medical Centre to offer my services.
The GPs who went through the official channels of the rural doctors workforce had their names collected but very few were called upon due to the overwhelming response of others directly to the local medical centres.
I was rostered on for the Wednesday arvo and went up with all our redundant glucometers, spare drug samples, dressings and packets of mars bars and red frogs for the kids.
I was a little anxious about what I may encounter up there.
The relief medical centre had been organised by one of the local nurses who walked in to the relief centre with her hospital name badge and a stethoscope and announced she was there to help.
She organised volunteer nurses doctors dressings medications equipment for the relief centre first aid room with efficiency. She was ably supported by another local nurse who farmed out her 3 young children and was working up to 18 hours a day both in Whittlesea and " up the mountain" in the evening - helping the firies with their eye complaints , chest complaints and minor injuries.
These two nurses in particular have my complete admiration.
One doctor arrived with a pallet of goods which he had been about to send to Bali but on the Monday decided that he would divert it to Whittlesea. Another doctor had come up with her church group to volunteer with general things but got roped into the medical centre once she said she was a GP - luckily she had her script pad with her.
I was amazed at the resilience of the people.
Most people I saw had lost houses neighbours friends and or relatives.
All had little with them but the clothes that they wore.
I wrote out scripts helped to look after minor burns and injures and gave the occasional hug when needed.
I went back on Thursday taking one of my practice nurses with me as she has experience in dressings and had pushed me to get her up there.
I also took up Rachel a friend who has just finished her uni course of nursing
Everyone wants to do something to help.
Everyone wants to volunteer.
Our little first aid centre overflowed with donated medical goods. Nurses came from all over with a huge variety of skills to volunteer.We were well fed by the volunteers in the kitchen.
Bottled water appeared when ever we were getting thirsty. Ice creams appeared donuts appeared Lollies appeared Volunteered goods were of all sorts.
People would refuse to take sample packs of medication because someone else may need them more - we had to force them on them.
Humans are a wonderful race - in 2 days I saw the best of people even those who had been through hell.
The local communities will rebuild.
This area is my home area albeit that I have now lived in Ballarat for 12 years.
It is where I spent my late teenage years then 20s in Eltham and up to Cottlesbridge for 5 years. Cottlesbridge survived. Strathewen a couple of km away has lost at least 30 of its population of 200. Kinglake is where we took the kids bush walking going to Masons falls etc
We all mourn but I came away with a feeling of hope.
The people will return.
The trees will return.
The animals will return.
Kinglake will live again.