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Women at Work: Kalyna Harasymiv

Laura Peppas

As far as first weeks on the job go, riding a helicopter to the top of Mt Kosciusko for a rescue mission took the cake for Kalyna Harasymiv.

“It was one of those moments that just stands out in my mind because it was quite surreal at the time,” she reflects.

As the flight doctor for Snowy Hydro Southcare, Kalyna has been on many more missions since that Kosciusko flight back in November.

The 24-hour helicopter service performs roughly 500 rescue missions per year for people in the ACT and South-eastern NSW, and has just marked its 6,000th mission since its launch in 1998.

Missions range from medical transfers to hospitals for patients from remote communities, to rescuing people from areas ambulances may struggle to reach, such as mountains or the bases of cliffs.

Working with a team of paramedics, Kalyna assists with providing medical care to patients during flights. She says timing is everything.

“Just a couple of days ago we picked up someone who had respiratory failure and needed assistance to be taken to Canberra Hospital, so we provided breathing support during the flight, which is not something to be done by standard ambulance transfer,” Kalyna says.

“We also had a man down the coast who had a serious accident and we were able to give him blood transfusions during the flight so we could get him to hospital to have the operation he needed.”

Kalyna will usually work 12-hour shifts, switching between 8am-8pm and 8pm-8am.

“It certainly can be very challenging at times because you are working with what can be critically unwell people but being quite limited in terms of the resources you’ve got, and being in the helicopter creates an extra level of complexity and instability,” she says.

“But the team I work with on the helicopter are such a good team and have so many more years of experience than I do, so there’s always a consultant who is contactable for support if you want to ask them something during the missions, or debrief afterwards, so it’s a very supportive environment.”

Kalyna grew up in Canberra and moved to Sydney to study her medical degree, returning to her hometown for her post graduate degree at the Australian National University.

The 33 year old trained at the Canberra Hospital for a year after her studies before joining the Snowy Hydro Southcare team.

She says a huge highlight of her role is seeing lives change.

“In some circumstances we are the only option for people; there are people who have survived accidents and medical conditions that they wouldn’t have if Southcare wasn’t there,” she says.

“It’s great to be part of a team that functions as well as it does, and I think when you go out to these remote communities and people tell you they knew the people you rescued and just seeing how much it means to people, you feel a real sense of responsibility, and a real sense that you’re doing a good thing for these people. That is something I really want to uphold.

Snowy Hydro SouthCare is dedicating the month of March to raise awareness of the work performed by its crew members with the aim of promoting safety messages and encouraging community support for the service. The month culminates with its largest community day of the year, Base Open Day.

The essentials

What: Snowy Hydro SouthCare Base Open Day
When: 10am – 3pm, Sunday 29 March
Where:Snowy Hydro SouthCare Helicopter Base — David Warren Rd, Hume
How much: Gold coin donation at entry, with all funds raised on the day going towards keeping the helicopter in the air and saving lives in the region.
Web: snowyhydrosouthcare.com.au

Photos courtesy of Ross Buchanan. 


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author