A PARAMEDIC has spoken of the trauma of attending emergency calls, at the official opening of a respite spot for ambulance service staff.

Helen Shepherd has attended jobs ranging from cot deaths to suicides and serious road traffic collisions in her 10 years at the North West Ambulance Service.

Her distressing experiences have prompted her to help open a health and wellbeing garden at Burnley Ambulance Station for paramedics who have been on a difficult callout.

Ms Shepherd, a development senior paramedic at the ambulance service, said: “Any emergency calls which involve sudden deaths, children, suicides and any kind of death are especially traumatic.

“I’ve been out to cot deaths at Christmas, people who have taken their own lives and some terrible road traffic collisions.

“All this is incredibly distressing and it affects ambulance service staff no differently to everyone else.

“It can be very stressful and take a huge toll on mental health which is why we’ve now got this green space.”

After moving to the new £1.7m station earlier this year, Ms Shepherd came up with an idea to transform a patch of land into a welcoming area to give ambulance staff somewhere to reflect and relax.

With support from her colleagues, Ms Shepherd got to work prepping the soil and laying stones before planting brightly-coloured plants and adding finishing touches including a bistro table and solar string lights so that the garden can be enjoyed by staff working nights.

At a special opening event, children from Burnley Private Day Nursery attended to lay a few final plants before being given the opportunity to have a look around the new station and an ambulance while learning about what the service does and how to use 999.

Ms Shepherd added: “I have taken great pleasure in creating the space, my absolute focus was my colleagues and I was humbled to see crews taking time to reflect and gather their thoughts there after a devastating incident recently.

“Health and wellbeing are of paramount importance and utilising this opportunity to create a space that staff can escape to in the darkest of times is really worthwhile. I must say a huge thank you to our senior management team for truly supporting my vision as without them it would not have been possible.”

“It’s now a team effort to make sure the garden is kept watered and cared for and everyone is pitching in to make sure that the area is well looked after.”

Operations manager at the ambulance service, Dave Stuart, said: “When Helen approached me with her idea I thought it was fantastic. Our staff work day in day out to care for other people in very difficult circumstances and it’s really important that they take time out to focus on their own wellbeing.

“Helen has done a fantastic job and it was great to be able to share this with local nursery school children and give them the opportunity to learn about the work that we do.”